President Rivlin to the Finnish Ambassador:
"As Finland takes up the presidency of the European Union in July, your leadership is even more important. Close EU-Israel relations are in the interests of us all. Israel seeks peace with its neighbors, but the rockets fired on us just last week from Gaza show we cannot compromise on the security of our civilians."
President Rivlin to the Greek Ambassador:
"We face a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe, including in Greece, which I discussed recently with your president. It was a great honor to participate with the Mayor of Thessaloniki at the Yom HaShoah ceremony."
Ambassadors from Ethiopia, Finland, Peru, Greece, and Nicaragua presented their credentials today, Thursday, May 16 / 11 Iyar, to President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin at an official ceremony at Beit HaNasi as they take up their posts in Israel. As each ambassador arrived, their national anthem was played by the Israel Police Band, their national flag was raised and they reviewed an honor guard of IDF soldiers. After presenting their letters of credence to the president and an audience with him, they signed the visitors’ book and Hatikva was played.
The president welcomed Ambassador Reta Alemu Nega of Ethiopia, accompanied by his mother, who was the first to present his credentials today. The president sent his warm wishes to the President of Ethiopia who he met on his state visit to the country a year ago. “The Ethiopian-Jewish community in Israel is a living bridge between our countries and cultures. From personal experience, I can say that the avocados you grow can become an important export.” The president said that in the fields of business, agriculture, and security, the two countries already worked closely together and that he hoped to work closely with the ambassador.
The Ethiopian ambassador thanked the president for his warm welcome, saying “I bring the greetings of the President of Ethiopia, and of the Prime Minister, who hopes to visit here soon. Your visit left very warm memories. Visits of this kind are milestones in our relations, and we are ready to strengthen the excellent bilateral ties into a strategic partnership.”
Next, Ambassador Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen of Finland presented her credentials to the president. “We are both small countries who play a big role in the fields of technology and innovation,” he said. “We are developing closer relations in the field of security and I hope that we will be able to deepen them even further.”
“As Finland takes up the presidency of the European Union in July, your leadership is even more important. Close EU-Israel relations are in the interests of us all. Israel seeks peace with its neighbors, but the rockets fired on us just last week from Gaza show we cannot compromise on the security of our civilians.” Speaking about resolutions passed by UNESCO regarding the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, he said “Let’s leave history to the historians, not to politicians who ignore the Jewish people’s historic connection to Jerusalem. Finland showed great moral courage in protecting its Jewish community and refugees during World War II, despite the risks. Unfortunately, we see a resurgence of anti-Semitism across Europe today. It is a threat not only for Jewish people but for humanity as a whole, our values and morality.” he said in conclusion.
The Ambassador of Finland presented her letters of credence and said, “thank you for your important words of welcome. It is a great honor that Israel is my first posting as ambassador. Our countries have common interests in the fields of innovation, high-tech, and entrepreneurship. We share your concern about rising anti-Semitism in Europe. Finland has a long-term commitment to the stability of the region and will continue to play a role in UN peace-keeping missions. I am delighted to be here this week when Israel is a real part of Europe, and wish everyone a successful and enjoyable Eurovision Song Contest.”
Following this, the incoming Peruvian Ambassador, Carlos Daniel Chavez-Taffur Schmidt, presented his credentials. The president sent his wishes to those celebrating Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s independence day, in Lima this evening, and said “We would be delighted to develop the relations between our countries in the fields of water, agriculture, and innovation. We have much to learn from each other. When I visited your country, I found such natural beauty and rich culture, including at Machu Picchu.” The president noted the important Jewish community in Peru, saying “we appreciate the shelter you gave to European refugees during World War II.”
The ambassador thanked the president for his remarks, saying “Mr. President, allow me to convey the best wishes of the President of Peru to the people of Israel. Peru shares the same values as Israel – democracy, freedom of the press, separation of powers and human rights. I believe that we can extend our relations for the benefit of both peoples. Peru is proud of our role as one of the first supporters of Israeli in 1947 and we celebrate the friendship every year on November 29th, the date of the UN’s vote on partition.”
Ambassador Elias Eliadis of Greece then presented his credentials speaking Hebrew. “I had the pleasure of visiting Greece last year when I visited to celebrate 70 years of relations between our countries. I also viewed the very impressive naval maneuvers of the Greek navy,” said the president.
The president added, “the relations between us are not just between countries. They are relations between two great cultures with thousands of years of shared history. Athens and Jerusalem are pillars of modern culture. Our relations have grown a great deal in the last decade and we work together on energy, tourism, and innovation. We face a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe, including in Greece. Just recently the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki was defaced, and I discussed it with your president. It was a great honor to participate with the Mayor of Thessaloniki at the Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Day) recently.”
The president added, “Israel is committed to freedom of religion and worship for everyone and we have excellent relations with the Greek Orthodox Church. Just recently, I visited the Land of the Monasteries with leaders of the churches. This is a project to restore and preserve an important site for Christianity, which we hope will draw many thousands of pilgrims to the Holy Land.”
The Greek Ambassador thanked the president for his warm welcome and said, “The Hebrew and Greek traditions are the basis for the world we know today. We want to promote cultural ties as the basis for wide-ranging cooperation between our countries. We are trying hard to fight anti-Semitism, which is not a problem of the Jews but of European society as a whole. I wish prosperity and success to the people of Israel.
Finally, the president welcomed Ambassador Oscar Obidio Cubas Castro of Nicaragua, saying “I am sure that you, like we, see the renewal of diplomatic relations after a break of nine years as a new start. The only difference between our flags is that ours is blue and white and yours is sky-blue and white. Yesterday, our ambassador in Nicaragua presented his credentials and you are here with your letter of credence today. I am delighted to welcome you.”
The ambassador thanked the president, saying “Thank you, Mr. President. I feel like your words come straight from the heart. Your country may be small geographically, but it is one of the most important in the world. We remember the Holocaust, one of the worst times you experienced as a people, but we continue onwards.”
Photo credits: Amos Ben Gershom (Ethiopia, Finland), Mark Neiman (Peru, Greece, Nicaragua) (GPO)