Nawruz -- saying goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring -- Is a Persian Holiday marking the New Year.


On Wednesday evening March 21 the Baha’i community in Israel held its annual Nawruz celebration in the heart of Jerusalem. The Baha’i faith, with its emphasis on unity and equality among people, has millions of followers worldwide, with its global center in Israel. However, its origins are in present-day Iran, and thus Nawruz, the Persian New Year, is celebrated by the Baha’i community as well.


The Baha’i World Centre in Israel includes the shrines of Baha’ullah and the Bab in Acre and Haifa respectively, the renowned Baha’i gardens, and other sites including a new Pilgrim Reception area. The center receives a million visitors a year, including Baha’i religious pilgrims, as well as international tourists.


As is its tradition, the Baha’i community in Israel held a festive celebration to commemorate the Persian New Year, or Nawruz. Painstaking efforts were undertaken to recreate a miniature version of the Baha’i gardens in the David Citadel hotel, bringing a taste of the Baha’i shrines to Jerusalem. The Baha’i leaders stood at the entrance greeting guests warmly. Coming from all over the world, they wore the traditional attire of their respective countries of origin. Live music further added to the relaxing ambience of the evening.

 Ms. Sarah Vader, Deputy Secretary of the Bahai International Community Secretariat, opened the evening and welcomed the distinguished guests. Mrs. Vader read greetings from President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu on behalf of the government and people of Israel. Ms. Tahereh Pourshafie from Australia, then sang a beautiful prayer in Farsi.

 The Secretary General of the Baha’i International community, Mr. Joshua Lincoln, talked about the significance of Naw-Rúz. He mentioned that “To the Baha’i, Naw-Rúz is not just the arrival of spring. The renewal in the world of nature is in fact a symbol of spiritual renewal, and an occasion for the individual to explore how to contribute to the material and spiritual welfare of others. Therefore it is an opportunity to reinvigorate the powers of the spirit and to re-examine matters of the heart and conscience.” He then spoke about the various events that the Baha’i International Community organized, including:

-          The Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh in October 2017 – and the way it was celebrated and marked around the world including through the arts;

-          The upcoming International Bahá'í Convention;

-          The 150th anniversary of the arrival of Bahá’u’lláh in the Holy Land



Followed Mr. Lincoln’s speech, Ms. Vader introduced  a group of colorful artists from the Pacific Island on stage. The guests enjoyed the performers, live music, and a lavish buffet, as they celebrated Nawruz with the Baha’i community. wish the global Baha"i community Happy Baha"i New Year

Photos By  Silvia G. Golan




On Wednesday March 21, Central Asia came to central Israel, with a spectacular Nowruz (New Year) celebration. The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Israel, together with the municipality of Rishon Lezion and the Association of immigrants from Kazakhstan in Israel, hosted a festive celebration which connected Israeli and Kazkhstani culture, and marked both the traditional Persian New Year, as well as the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover.


Rishon Lezion Park was set up to look like a village from Kazakhstan, with elaborately decorated huts, tapestries, and adorned tables. Guests enjoyed refreshments, and boxes of chocolate with a Kazakhstani label.



The Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Israel H.E. Mr. Doulat Kuanyshe welcomed the guests. He remarked on the similarities between the two holidays of Nowruz and Passover, with both being holidays of the spring, leading to cleaning homes, and of course tables filled with food and family celebrations.


Yossi Nahmani, the deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion spoke on behalf of the municipality. Mr. Nahmani greeted the guests in Russian, before reverting to English. He explained that fittingly, the park was on the site of a former school that had been used to teach Hebrew immigrants. Mr. Nahmani also remarked on the similarities between Passover and Nowruz, and emphasized the friendship between Israel and Kazakhstan. In closing, he invited everyone to attend future events in Rishon Lezion.


Sofa Landver, the Minister of Immigration and Integration and herself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, spoke on behalf of the government of Israel, wishing the guests a joyous holiday--for both Passover and the Nowruz. Additional speakers addressed the audience in Russian, further highlighting the poly-lingual and multicultural component of Kazakhstan and the celebration.



In closing, guests were reminded of how Nowruz is a holiday which brings people together--uniting Turkic people from Iran, Turkey, and all of Central Asia, led by Kazakhstan.


Following the speeches, four different singers performed in English, Hebrew, French, and Russian. The guests enjoyed a lavish buffet lunch with traditional Kazakhstani cuisine, along with some Israeli dishes. wishes a Happy Nowruz and Passover to all those celebrating.


 By Nicholas Levy  /  Photo credit: Lea Sarsour



St. Patrick’s Day came early to Israel, with the annual celebration by the Irish Embassy held on Thursday March 15. Dignitaries and guests, many in green-themed outfits, enjoyed live music and Irish beer in a gala celebration in Tel Aviv.


H.E. Ambassador Alison Kelly opened her remarks by thanking the evening’s co-sponsors, including well-known Irish brands like Guinness. The Ambassador also noted the presence of Irish UN peacekeepers and thanked them for their contributions to peacekeeping around the world. Ambassador mentioned that the municipality building in Tel Aviv, as well as a soccer stadium in Haifa, were lit up green for the evening, showing Israel’s love for Ireland. In closing her remarks, Ambassador Kelly thanked her assistant Alyssa for all her work over the last few years, in anticipation of the latter leaving her post.


Irish Minister of State Mr. Paul Kehoe addressed the audience next, and joined Ambassador Kelly in thanking her assistant, as well as the Irish peacekeepers stationed in Israel. Mr. Kehoe talked about the burgeoning economic and commercial cooperation between Ireland and Israel. The minister expressed his hope that even more areas for business cooperation would open up in coming years. Moving to cultural ties, Mr. Kehoe mentioned Irish authors visiting Israel, and Irish art exhibitions in Israel as examples of the intercultural diplomacy at work bringing the two nations together.


Finally, Mr. Kehoe cited the close cooperation in security and defense matters between Ireland and Israel, as well as the Irish peacekeepers stationed in the Golan Heights. Expressing his satisfaction that the two nations had developed such close and positive ties, he concluded by explaining that on St. Patrick’s Day, “everyone is Irish,” and wishing all the guests a festive celebration.


Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Dr. Michael Oren addressed the crowd on behalf of the government of Israel. In addition to expressing the satisfaction of his own government and nation with their ties and cooperation with Ireland, the deputy minister also talked about his own personal ties. He mentioned his first visit to Ireland and love of the country, as well as an Irish drum that he still plays today. Deputy Minister Oren concluded by wishing all of the guests a happy St. Patrick’s Day.



The national anthems of both countries were then sung, concluding the formal portion of the evening. The band resumed playing Irish music, and many people joined in traditional dancing, including some professional dancers. Throughout the evening photos and information about St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world were broadcast onto a screen on the wall, while guests also had the opportunity to create an Irish-themed gif at a photo station.



The distinguished guests included ambassadors and various diplomats, business and cultural leaders, and those with a unique Irish connection, including negotiations expert Lior Frankiensztajn, Vered Swid,  former

Director of the Authority for Advancing Women’s Rights, Liel Maghen, Co-Director of the Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI), and Brian Maccaba, an Irish Jew based in Jerusalem who works in the cybersecurity and high-tech field. wishes Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the Embassy and the people of Ireland.

Steven Aiello
Photos Silvia G. Golan

Influential women from all walks of life met at an International Women’s Day summit at the residence of the Ambassador of Ireland, H.E. Alison Kelly on Monday evening March 19. In addition to networking and exchanging ideas, the group heard from Ambassador Kelly, Major General Kristin Lund, Head of Mission at UNTSO, and representatives from the Women Wage Peace movement.

Ambassador Kelly opened the evening by expressing her support and appreciation for the Women Wage Peace initiative. She also welcomed fellow ambassadors, and the guest of honor, Major General Kristin Lund, the Head of Mission at United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

Pascal Chen spoke on behalf of Women Wage Peace. She explained the enthusiasm that has come with remarkable growth over the last year, and the movement’s rise to over 30,000 registered members, from all walks of life. Chen thanked the diplomats for supporting the initiative and for their empowerment of local women activists. Chen closed by thanking Ambassador Kelly for helping to facilitate training of Women Wage Peace members.


Major General Lund discussed the challenges facing gender equality globally, based on international economic and socio-economic reports, such as more than a billion women worldwide lacking legal protection, and estimates that gender pay gaps will only be fully eradicated in 200 years. She contrasted those challenges with groundbreaking successes in facing and addressing discrimination and oppression, citing the #MeToo movement as one example.

Major General Lund highlighted recent efforts within the UN, led by Secretary General  Antonio Guterres, including achieving gender parity of UN senior leadership for the first time in history. Listing various challenges facing women around the world, the general stated that empowerment of women and protection of their rights are part of the UN’s mission. Emphasizing that women can play a key role in peacebuilding, Major General Lund called for action, saying that “the time is now.”

Following the speeches, there was a poetry reading by a woman writer and activist. The guests then enjoyed a musical performance, with songs sung in Arabic, English and Hebrew. International Women’s Day is March 8, but events promoting women’s rights and empowerment may be held throughout March.


By Reut Rivlin, Debate for Peace
Photos Stella Szpira


 Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Mr. Mariano A. Caucino , Ambassador of Argentina to Israel.

 The new ambassadors to Israel of Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Malawi, and South Korea presented their credentials to President of Israel Reuven Rivlin in a formal ceremony at the President's Residence on Monday. The police orchestra played the national anthems of the countries, followed by an IDF honor guard. After each ambassador presented their formal letter to the President, they signed the guest book of the President's Residence. At the closing of the ceremony, Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, was played.


Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Ms. Hanna Ama Nyarko,  Ambassador of  Ghana to Israel.


The first to present her credentials was H.E. Mrs. Hanna Ama Nyarko, Ghana's incoming ambassador. President Rivlin remarked that "The ties between our countries is excellent, as are the ties between the governments, and I am happy to see them growing even stronger in recent years.” Ambassador Nyarko responded “our ties with Israel are important, and during my time here, I hope to work hard to further strengthen them.”


Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Mr Choi Yonghwan ,  Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Israel.


H.E. Mr. Choi Yonghwan, the incoming ambassador of the Republic of Korea, presented his credentials next. President Rivlin told Ambassador Yonghwan “These are historic days, which may help all those living in conflicts around the world to recognize that the time has come for dialogue,” noting that each country faced its own unique conflict.


The incoming South Korean ambassador thanked the president and said, "I have dreamed of visiting Jerusalem and Israel since,” making the current position “a realization of a dream, and a great honor.”


Referring to future talks between North and South Korea, as well as with the United States, Ambassador Yonghwan remarked that “this year is critical for us” and that “the future talks raise hopes of peace, and we will do our best to achieve success in that regard.”


President Rivlin then greeted H.E. Mr. Mariano A. Caucino, the incoming ambassador of Argentina, extending warm wishes to the Argentinean President. The president said: "We greatly appreciate the present government in Argentina and the current president. We can never forget the terrible attacks that took place in the 1990s against the Jewish community and the Israeli embassy in Argentina, but we must move on and bring the perpetrators to justice, and we appreciate the work of the current government to seek the truth and achieve justice. "

Ambassador Caucino thanked the president for the warm words, and announced that the President of Argentina is hoping to visit Israel as soon as possible, and that they were working on finding a suitable date for the visit.


Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Mr  John Newton Guiliani Valenzuela  ,  Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Israel.


H.E. Mr. John Newton Guiliani Valenzuela presented his credentials as the incoming ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Israel. President Rivlin welcomed Ambassador Valenzuela, pointing out that ties between their nations predated the vote of the Dominican Republic for Israel’s recognition in 1947. "The Dominican Republic also assisted some 1,000 Jewish refugees during one of the darkest periods of our history, and we will never forget it. For this reason we have a street in Jerusalem named after the Dominican Republic." The President noted that Israel would be happy to deepen cooperation and mutual understanding between the two countries.


The ambassador thanked President Rivlin, adding that the long history of cooperation and support was a testament to the friendship between Israel and the Dominican Republic, and that he hoped to further advance trade agreements and cooperation between the two countries.


 Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E  Ms Agrina Mussa ,  Ambassador of Malawi  to Israel.


Finally, H.E. Mrs. Agrina Mussa, the incoming ambassador of Malawi to Israel, presented her credentials. President Rivlin welcomed Ambassador Mussa, and extended an invitation to the president of Malawi to come to Israel for an agro-tech conference planned for May. The President noted that food security and water are also key global issues, and Israel was proud to be working productively with Malawi on these important issues.


Ambassador Mussa thanked President Rivlin, stating that the two countries have enjoyed strong relations for half a century, and that she hoped to see fair treatment of Israel in various international bodies and forums. President Rivlin in turn thanked the ambassador for her important words, and added that Israel sees the future in Africa, and would love to once again participate in the African Union as an observer state. congratulates the incoming ambassadors of Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Malawi, and the Republic of Korea and wishes them success in the coming years.

 Photos Mark Neumann / GPO
Steven Aiello