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 VIETNAM and Israel established diplomatic relations in July 1993 and last year celebrated the 30th anniversary of those ties. Israel opened an embassy in Hanoi in December 1993. Vietnam waited till 2010 to establish an embassy in Tel Aviv, but since then the ties between the two countries have become increasingly stronger. The number of Vietnamese citizens resident in Israel is somewhere between 150 and 200. The first Vietnamese came to the country as refugee boat people in the late 1970s. One of the initial acts by Menachem Begin after he became prime minister, was to grant them political asylum. During the Vietnam War, numerous temporary Jewish communities were set up in Vietnam, consisting largely of American military personnel.

After the Vietnam War, the Jewish community decreased significantly, but in recent years has begun to return, Ly Duc Trung, the ambassador of Vietnam, told a large group of Israeli business executives at a superb luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Herzliya that he cohosted with the Ambassadors Club of Israel.

Chabad is active in Vietnam, with centers in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hoi An, where visitors can receive kosher meals, Sabbath services, and ritual baths. Each of the abovementioned cities has a synagogue. There is also a Jewish school, said the ambassador.

At formal events, the ambassador is usually attired in the national costume of his country, but this time he wore an elegant business suit.

While people were networking before the meal, which incidentally was served with true professionalism, some of the food and beverage products of Vietnam could be viewed on a display table, along with a book of beautiful photographs of Vietnam in the totality of what it has to offer.

At the tables, guests heard something of the ambassador’s remarkable biography, both from Yitzhak Eldan, the founding president of the Ambassadors Club, and from the ambassador himself. Ly Duc Trung entered diplomatic school when he was 18, stayed for four-and-a-half years, and was awarded a scholarship to Paris. He wanted to officially join the Foreign Service, so he returned home and has held a number of positions over the years.

Eldan noted that while some ambassadors left after October 7, Ly Duc Trung stayed on and did much to improve the connections between Vietnam and Israel.

But most of the conversation centered on what the two countries could do for each other.

The Vietnamese people believe in a balanced diet, which is why they are so slim, the ambassador told his guests.

But the real purpose of the luncheon was to explore imports from Vietnam and Israeli investment potential in Vietnam.

Israeli car importers are very interested in importing Vietnamese electric cars, and Vietnam is interested in exporting them to Israel, but there’s a lot of bureaucratic red tape to cut before that can happen. The ambassador said that before he came to Israel, he had envisaged traversing the country in its length and breadth in an electric car. Unfortunately, he can’t see that happening during his posting here.

Among the guests were architects, town planners, transport and tourism officials, and people engaged in night vision devices, cyber, agriculture, homeland security, diamonds, civilian and military communications equipment, and journalism.

Israel and Vietnam complement each other in that Israel grew out of the mosquito swamps and the desert, and Vietnam grew out of a wild jungle. Traditionally, both countries also observe lunar calendars. Vietnam’s New Year, the Year of the Dragon, coincides with February 10. Both Vietnam and Israel have developed out of very little into highly modern countries, and the ambassador asserted that not only Vietnam but all of Asia is destined to become a formidable power.

The luncheon was held on Tu Bishvat, so the ambassador received a large tray of fruit from Eldan, and in return he presented Eldan with a work of Vietnamese art.

The ambassador recommended Vietnam as a popular honeymoon destination, saying that it is so close to other Southeast Asian countries that honeymooners can go for day drips and return for romantic evening meals. Vietnam has become so popular a honeymoon destination for Indians, he added, that some even have the wedding in Vietnam, and most Indian weddings have around 300 guests. An Indian wedding is a weeklong affair, which is a tremendous boon to Vietnam’s tourism

Presumably, Vietnam will soon be hosting Israeli weddings.




Photo by Silvia G Golan