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On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, the Romanian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv, directed by Dr. Gina Pană, held a Special Piano and Opera Concert in Honor of Romania's National Day. This event took place at Enav Center in Tel Aviv.

The concert was preceded by addresses of Dr. Gina Pană, Ambassador of Romania in Israel, Mrs. Andrea Păstârnac, and Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Culture, Dr. Irina Cajal-Marin.

The concert started with the National Anthems of Romania and Israel sang by soprano Dika Philosoph, accompanied by pianist Sofia Mazar. The concert then included arias composed by Gounod, Verdi and Puccini performed by Dika Philosoph, accompanied by Sofia Mazar, and piano pieces composed by Beethoven, Enescu and Chopin performed by pianist Andrei Licaret.

After the concert, an exhibition of Portraits of People, which displays traditions from ethnic communities in Romania, was opened in Enav's foyer. This exhibition was preceded by introductory words by Dr. Paulina Popoiu, General Director of the NVM, Buchares Cocktail.


On Monday, December 2, the Thai Embassy held a festive reception for the King's birthday and for the National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand.



The event was held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv and included a reception overflowing with Thai traditions.


Guests were welcomed with a warm handshake by Thai Ambassador Boon-Long, his wife Kamolrat Boon-Long and embassy staff. Guests were treated to a taste of Thailand with musicians and dancers brought especially for this occasion from Thailand. The band played the Thai and Israeli national anthems with traditional Thai instruments to which the audience sang along.



The Thai Ambassador addressed Yair Shamir, Minister of Agriculture, members of the diplomatic corpsand guests. He said that for the Thai people, the birthday of His Majesty the King is not only a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect upon His Majesty’s contribution, dedication, and work towards bettering the lives of the Thai people. He said, "His Majesty the King has always been the main pillar in the nation’s stability and in bringing about development in the country. “The Soul of the Nation” as His Majesty the King is referred, does not only relate to the institution of the monarchy but also to the King himself - with his moral integrity, close contact with his people and lifelong devotion to them".



Ambassador Boom-Long discussed Thai trade relations with Israel: "with Thailand’s capacity as a major world supplier of diversified agricultural products and as a member of ASEAN (a combined market of about 600 million people), together with Israel’s agricultural and scientific technologies, we can work together to utilize the resources of both countries in agriculture and industry."  Ambassador Boom-Long also remarked: "I believe that Thailand and Israel share the same vision of improving people’s livelihood, building human capacity and transferring knowledge for agricultural development domestically and internationally. He added, "with our current dialogue between TICA and MASHAV (Israel's agency for international development cooperation) and other governmental and private entities, Thailand is Israel's strategic partner in conducting trilateral and international cooperation in Southeast Asia and beyond". At the end of his speech, Ambassador Boom-Long toasted to everyone's good health and happiness and to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej as well as to continued close and cordial relations between Thailand and Israel.



As the representative of the Government of Israel, Yair Shamir wished his Majesty King  Bhumibol good health and happiness and best wishes to the people of Thailand. Minister Shamir mentioned that this year it would be almost 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Thailand. "Thailand was among the first Asian countries to both recognize and maintain diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. Since1954, Thailand and Israel have enjoyed an ever-warming friendship". He continued by saying: "We are particularly proud of Princess Chulabhorn, who has led the cooperation between Rambam and Hadassah Medical Centers in Israel and the Thai Chulabhorn Research Institute in the field of cancer research.



Minister Shamir mentioned that as Thailand enjoys a major economic position in Asia and as the world looks east, Thailand will play an increasingly important economic role in the region.


The economic exchanges between the countries are diverse and vast and cover the communication, agriculture, defense, food and water technologies sectors, among others. He mentioned that apart from trade, Thailand's migrant workers (numbering some 25,000) in Israel play a crucial role in our economic relations. Israel is committed and will remain committed to their welfare and protection. Israel is also proud to have trained thousands of Thai citizens in agriculture and other disciplines through the "Mashav" Agency.



Minister Shamir concluded by asking AmbassadorBoom-Long to "convey our best wishes to His Majesty the King of Thailand, the government and people of Thailand on its National day. "May Thailand continue to prosper and flourish and we wish that the good relations and friendship between Thailand and Israel will continue to grow in the years ahead".


The Thai band then continued to play while guests enjoyed a variety of Thai delicacies served in accordance with Thai tradition and its unique food decorations.  



During the event, I had the chance to meet Dov Kalmann, the representative of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Israel. I asked him to describe the nature of Israeli tourism to Thailand.Mr. Kalmann said that Israelis "regard Thailand as a kind of second home. The increase in number of Israelis visiting the Kingdom (130,000 = 1.6% of the total population) is almost an international phenomena – only Switzerland produces more visitors to Thailand relative to their population. One item to take note of is the fact that there are 415 weekly flights (direct or indirect) from Switzerland to Thailand compared to only 78 weekly flights from Israel. Our main constraint is therefore the lack of flights. We see 2013 showing another increase (8%) in traffic from Israel to Thailand'.



Mr. Kalmann continued by saying that, "according to official Thai statistics, Israelis spend an average of $134 per day. This is higher than most other groups. Our aim is to retain the high-end profile Israelis have of Thailand by promoting high quality products, family travel, shopping and honeymoon vacations". He mentioned that the fastest growing segment of the Israeli market to Thailand is the family segment. Israelis travel with their three kids (average) for a period of two weeks, mainly during the low season in Thailand (the rainy season). This has been a major target since TAT opened its representative office in Israel. 



Of course it was impossible not to ask him about tourism in light of current internal protests and demonstrations in Thailand.  Mr. Kalmann said that right now there is no reason not to visit Thailand. "The demonstrations are taking place in areas far away from the main tourist areas, shopping malls and nightlife sites. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not issued any new travel advisory – but recommend remaining updated regarding any developments. We have not noticed any change in booking patterns from Israel nor any cancellations".




Here are some interesting facts we found about Thailand:


Thailand (officially the Kingdom of Thailand) was formerly known as Siam. The country is a constitutional monarchy, headed by King Rama IX, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, which has reigned since 1946.  Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country in terms of total area (with an area of approximately 513,000 km2) and is the 20th-most-populous country, with some 64 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% Thai Chinese, and 3% Malay, with the rest belonging to minority groups and various hill tribes. The country's official language is Thai. The primary religion is Buddhism - around 95% of the population.



Regarding their economy, Thailand is an emerging economy and considered a newly industrialized country.Thailand exports over $105 billion of goods and services annually. Major exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, cars, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world's no.1 exporter of rice, exporting more than 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually.



Industrial products include electrical appliances and components, computer parts and automobiles. Thailand ranks high among the world's automotive exporters as well as in the manufacturing of electronic goods. Tourism in Thailand makes up about 6% of the economy.Thailand has a GDP of $602 billion, putting Thailand as the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. 


According to the Israeli Export Institute, trade between Thailand and Israel has increased steadily in recent years. In 2010, bilateral trade between the countries grew by 40%. Thailand imports mainly diamonds and chemicals from Israel and exports to Israel machinery and electronic equipment.


Photos Silvia G.Golan




On November 11th, the Embassy of Angola held a reception marking 38 years of independence at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya.

The Ambassador of Angola - Jose Joao Manuel,Antonia Manuel and senior staff of the embassy greeted guests with a warm handshake at the entrance hall.


Among the distinguished guests were Naftali Benett, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Minister of Religious Services and Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs; foreign ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions, heads of organizations, senior members of Israel's business community and friends.


Here are some interesting points about Angola: Angola, officially, the Republic of Angola, is the world's twenty-third largest country, bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo on the north, Zambia on the east, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The former Portuguese colony became an independent country in 1975 and was formally named the Republic of Angola. Interesting photos of Angola and images that revealed the changes in industry in the country in recent years, were projected on giant screens in the hall.

Before the ceremony, I had the opportunity to chat with the head of a delegation of Angolan agronomists who came to Israel in order to gain practical experience with modern Israeli agricultural methods. He told me that his team was staying at Kibbutz Beit Alpha and that they are traveling around Israel visiting agricultural fields in various parts of the country. At these fields, they are experiencing first-hand the agricultural methods in place here so they can implement these latest methods in their own country.


After playing the national anthems of Angola and Israel, the Ambassador of Angola, Jose Joao Manuelwelcomed all the guests and said that although Angola is a young country, it has enormous potential that guarantees its socio-economic development and offers great business opportunities.

Angola's goal is a consolidated peace and a stable political situation based on the pillars of democracy. He added that in spite of economic setbacks that have negatively affected the economies of many countries – the growth of the Angolan economy for 2013 is projected to reach 5.1%.


"Revenues from the sales of oil, gas, diamonds and other natural resources are being used, on one hand, to reconstruct infrastructures destroyed during the civil war, and on the other hand, to build a modern country with the capacity to provide commodities and services essential for the welfare of its inhabitants". Ambassador Manuel mentioned that this endeavor is already producing visible results, As a matter of fact, quite a few of the guests here today can confirm this, because they too, have been ​​and continue to be a part of this mission of re-building Angola".


He said that Angola is growing with the help and cooperation of many countries, with Israel being one of them. The multifaceted cooperation between Angola and Israel involving human training is going through a very productive phase, mostly recognizable in the agricultural, energy, water, health, telecommunications, defense and security sectors.

In order to emphasize the fact that the Angolan market remains open for Israeli entrepreneurs interested in assisting in the building of the New Angola, he quoted the President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos who said: "There are businessmen from Israel who are interested in our market because Angola is a country that offers great business opportunities, allowing relations with Israel to be dynamic and multifaceted, thereby satisfying the interests of both countries."


Ambassador Manuel said that Angola is focusing on promoting cultural exchange visits by Angolan groups and artists to Israel, and with Israel sending cultural emissaries and groups to Angola. This has had a positive effect on bringing the nations closer than ever together.

Regarding Angola's foreign policy, Ambassador Manuel referred to the speech of the Vice President of the Republic of Angola Manuel Vicente, in front of the UN's General Assembly in New York where he made clear that the government of Angola supports the mediation efforts made by Secretary of State, John Kerry, and expressed the hope that the resumption of the bilateral dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority will result in a lasting peace settlement, culminating in the establishment of a Palestinian State that will coexist with the State of Israel.


Israel's Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennetrepresented the Government of Israel and the People of Israel in congratulating the government and people of Angola. He praised the fact thatafter decades of civil war, Angola has developed into a stable, secure, and prosperous nation. "Angola’s recent elections have once again demonstrated the country’s commitment to stability, democratic values, and the rule of law".  Minister Bennet mentioned that last year, Angola’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georges Rebelo Chikoti, visited Israel, and added "This year we received João Baptista Borges, Minister of Water and Energy, who participated in an international conference in Tel Aviv. Such visits are invaluable, strengthening our diplomatic ties and reaffirming our bilateral relations".  He continued: "Israel’s business initiatives in Angola are as vast as they are diverse, which include agriculture, mining, construction, water, energy, and more".


He added that Angola’s economic development, as seen in its capital Luanda and other cities and provinces, is quite impressive and Israel has been a proud partner in this endeavor.

Minister Bennet thanked Ambassador Manuel for all his hard work and wished him great success in his next position. Ambassador Jose Joao Manuel will soon be completing his role as Angola’s first Ambassador to Israel (ending what will be a 13 year tenure). "We will warmly welcome his successor and help the next Ambassador to continue to further the ties between our two countries".


Minister Bennet wished Angola peace, stability, and prosperity and praised the good relations and friendship between the State of Israel and the Republic of Angola and expressed the desire for it to grow ever stronger in the years to come.


Photo Silvia Golan




On Sunday, December 1st, 2013, the Ambassador of Romania in Israel, Mrs. Andrea Păstârnac, and Mr. Mircea Păstârnac, held a Reception and Romanian Wine Tasting evening in celebration of Romania's National Day, the Great Union Day as it is better known. (On this day in 1918, during the reign of king Ferdinand I, Romania, which at the time consisted of Moldova and Wallachia– was united with Transylvania, Crișana, Banat and the Maramureș area.)



The event took place in the Ruth Bruce Rappaport Foyer, in the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

The ceremony began with the national anthems of Israel and Romania proudly intoned by all present.


Then, Rabbi Joseph A. Wasserman, President of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Romanian Jewry, said prayers for Hannuka, and lighted the 5th candle, singing, accompanied by the public, traditional songs of Hannukah.

Many distinguished guests, including Mrs. Yael German, Israel's Minister of Health, ambassadors and members of diplomatic missions, honored the event with their presence and offered heartfelt congratulations to the ambassador and the embassy staff on this special day.



Mrs. Yael German said that she was deeply honored and very pleased to represent the Government and People of Israel in congratulating Romania in this celebrating of her Day.

She further pointed out that Romania and Israel have enjoyed a very special and excellent relationship for the past 64 years, ever since Israel's rebirth in 1948. She noted that Romania had been the only country of the former Soviet bloc that maintained diplomatic relations with Israel throughout all these years without interruption.


She said that both countries have special ties based on a broad common foundation, share common values and cherish freedom, and have a similar strategic outlook regarding regional and international issues. Jewish and Romanian history is intertwined – and always was, in times of joy and sorrow alike. “We hope that the joint future of Israel and Romania will be one of security, hope, prosperity and peace.” – said Mrs. German. “The bilateral cooperation between Israel and Romania exists in various areas: political, economic, cultural, scientific, and more. Our ties are expressed also in many mutual official visits, as well as in the ever-growing touristic exchange between Israel and Romania.


She mentioned the following facts:

·         The first meeting between governments was held in Jerusalem on November 24, 2011, and was headed by the Prime Ministers of Israel and Romania. The next meeting is expected to be held in Bucharest during the first half 2014.

·         Romanian's President, Mr. Traian Băsescu, is planning to visit Israel in January 2014.

·         Romanian's Prime Minister Mr. Titus Corlățean and the President of Romanian's Senate, Mr. Crin Antonescu, will visit Israel this coming December.


Mrs. German concluded by asking the Romania's Ambassador in Israel to convey to the Government and People of Romania best wishes and congratulations from the Government and People of Israel.

The Ambassador of Romania to Israel, Mrs. Andrea Păstârnac, addressed Mrs. Yael German, the distinguished guests and all the friends invited and said "This evening, beyond our titles and official capacities we are all friends of Romania. Today we celebrate the 95th birthday of Romania".


She continued by saying that both Romania and Israel, a young democracy of barely 65 years old, hold in the highest regards their uninterrupted friendship and celebrate continuous diplomatic relations between the two countries.

However, our history goes beyond that, stretching towards the beginning of the first millennium of the Common Era, when the first Jews arrived in the southern part of Dacia Felix. The rich and complex history of Romanian Jewry continues from the 14th to the 21st century. The Jews became the second largest ethnic component in the Old Kingdom of Romania, then the fourth largest community, in the new state emerging from the 1918 Unification.



The unitary history of the Romanian people highlighted the cultural Judaic life, which gradually developed an original Romanian Jewish nature, blending specific forms with contributions to Romanian life and culture.

30 years after the historical moment of Great Union, Romania and Israel established full diplomatic relations in June 11, 1948.

We share today all these years of history, and on this complex and unique ground we are building a special relation.

She ended by wishing:

"Happy Anniversary - La Mulți Ani, Românie!".


Amongst the distinguished guests that took part in the ceremony were:

·         Mr. Abraham Rosental, Director General of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, and previous CEO of the Israel's Hotel Association.

·         Mr. Bruno Landberg, Founder and Chairman of the Sano Group.


The evening was also highlighted by the superb performance of Izabela Barbu, an acclaimed Romanian singer known as Jezebel, who delighted the audience with Romanian songs and ballads. She was accompanied by the guitar players Mihai Melinescuand Tudor Anghelescu.  


Photo Silvia G.Golan




 The Anita Villalaz Cultural Circle (Círculo Cultural Anita Villalaz), Panama's Club Theater (Teatro Club de Panamá) and the Belle Arts Labor Academy (Academia Laboral de Bellas Artes) granted the prize "Diplomat of the Year" to Israel's Ambassador Dr. Alexander Galilee. This event took place during the XXXIV Gala of Anita Villalaz Prizes, in the Teatro En Círculo, and involved artistic and cultural references, and great friendship.


The renowned Actor and President of the Joint Comittee on Cultural Activities (Comisión Conjunta de Actividades Culturales), Miguel Moreno, stressed the fact that Dr. Alexander Galilee deserves this prize due to his impulse and contribution to the mutual relations between the two countries, particularly in sharing the diverse artistic and cultural expressions of Israel with the people of Panama.


During the prize, the Israeli Ambassador expressed his feeling of being honored for this recognition, which provides him with incentive to keep sharing part of Israel's art and culture with Panama, a country with beautiful traditions, which saw the birth of recognized artists that distinguished themselves at national and international level.


The prize was handed by the renowned Panamanian actress Eliza Morales, accompanied by the hosts Maritza Peregrina, Eyda Guardia de Allen, Lolita Rivera and Miguel Moreno.


The celebration was twofold regarding Israel, due to the fact that the Panama-Israel Cultural Institute (Instituto Cultural Panamá Israel) was granted the prize of Cultural Association of the Year, which was received by Israel's Honorary Consul in Panama, Mr. Moises Mizrachi


Photo provided for the Israel embassy in Panama


Translated by David Altman