The usual locations that embassies use to celebrate events are hotels, event halls, the actual embassy or the official ambassadorial residence.
The Guatemalan Ambassador, H.E. Mario Adolfo Búcaro Flores chose an unusual but highly appropriate spot to host guests to celebrate the country’s 198th anniversary of her independence – plus one year since the embassy moved back to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem: the celebrations were held at Jerusalem’s Friends of Zion (FOZ) Museum; Guatemala has long and illustrious record of being a solid and dependable friend of Israel.
It began in 1947 when Guatemala voted at the United Nations, at the end of the British mandate over then-Palestine, to divide the Mandate territory into two states, one Arab, one Jewish. Then in 1948, when Israel was re-established, Guatemala quickly recognized the nascent state. In 1957 she opened her first Israel embassy, in Jerusalem. Even though the embassy subsequently moved to Tel Aviv, Guatemala and Israel maintained excellent relations. And one year ago, President Morales ordered the embassy and the ambassador to restore the embassy to Jerusalem. The second country to do so (after the USA).
A glittering guest list that included the Ambassadors of several countries, including H.E. David Friedman of the USA and H.E. Mario Edgardo Castillo Mendoza of Honduras, Israeli government officials, the Mayor of Jerusalem (who also gave a short address), consuls, commercial attaches, VIPs and Guatemalan citizens in Israel.
First to address the audience was MK Amir Ohana, Israel’s Minister of Justice. “Today we celebrate the shared values of two long-time friends - the people of Guatemala and the people of Israel”. Mr. Ohana spoke of Guatemala’s history, and of its ongoing support of Israel and the Jewish people. He called on Guatemala (and at the same time, on leaders of other free countries) to recognize and to declare that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations. He congratulated Guatemala on the anniversary and asked the ambassador to extend best wishes from the Israeli government and people of Israel to the Guatemalan government and people.
Ambassador Búcaro Flores responded in a warm and praiseworthy address. He thanked MK Ohana and the State of Israel, calling Israel “a true friend”. He mentioned the symbolism of holding the event at the FOZ Museum, as Guatemala is indeed a “friend of Zion”. “Together we are building a better, tighter diplomatic relationship between our two countries.” He noted with gratitude the training that Israel had given in Guatemala in agriculture, science, education, medicine, conservation, security and more, and that Guatemala aimed to be the largest exporter of agricultural products to Israel in 2021 – the upcoming shmita year.
An excellent and moving address by Dr. Mike Evans followed. Dr. Evans has authored 71 books and has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post. He also established the FOZ Museum. He spoke generously of Israel-Guatemala relations, praised Guatemalan president Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, USA President Trump and Ambassador David Friedman; each for their part in the successes being celebrated that day in Jerusalem. He ended his address with a rousing call: “God bless Guatemala”, to much applause.
Ambassador Friedman opened his remarks with warm recognition of Jason Greenblatt, special envoy to Pres. Trump, who had just announced his retirement. He went on to talk of “giant” USA’s close ties with “little” Guatemala, but of their joint appreciation and friendship and support for Israel. “Although the USA was the first country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Guatemala will always be recognized as the second. No one can take that away.” He congratulated the Guatemalan ambassador and the people on their brave move, and on their 198th anniversary.
Finally, two awards were made: Dr. Evans awarded Ambassador Búcaro Flores the prestigious FOZ “Lion of Judah” award; the Honduran ambassador Castillo Mendoza awarded him. Both ambassadors responded briefly, in gratitude for the awards. Ambassador Búcaro Flores took the opportunity to announce that his country will be establishing 84 libraries in Israel, a gift to the country.
After beautiful renderings of the national anthems of both states, guests were then invited to mingle, to renew old friendships, to make new ones, and to enjoy a buffet supper at the museum.
The director and staff of www.diplomacy.co.il join in wishing Guatemala many many more years of success and liberty as a sovereign state.
Photos Silvia G. Golan