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By Jonathan Danilowitz

Bulgaria's Amabassador to Israel, Honorable Mr. Yuri Sterk
On the 9th March, His Excellency Mr. Yuri Sterk, the Bulgarian Ambassador to Israel, opened an exhibition at Tel Aviv's Enav Cultural Center. Amongst those at the event were key Ministry of Foreign Affairs persons, members of the diplomatic and consular corps and of course, many present and former Bulgarian citizens.



The exhibition – “The Power of Civil Society during the Holocaust: the Bulgarian Story, 1940 – 1944” – reflects some of the historic parallels between Bulgaria’s and Israel’s struggles for independence, and some of the similarities between the two countries, explaining the close ties that exist between them at all levels, to this day. (The exhibition is open to the public until 19th March.)


Although many individual Jews and several Jewish communities in Europe were saved from the Nazi death machine in WWII in various countries, Bulgaria was perhaps unique in that, thanks to the united civilian efforts (led by the Bulgarian Royal Family and other intellectual, spiritual and political leaders), almost the entire Jewish community there was saved. Neighbors would not stand by and allow the Jews to be deported to death camps.


In his address to the assembled guests, Ambassador Yuri Sterk spoke of the coincidence that the 9th March, the 133rd anniversary of Bulgaria’s liberation, was also the date of the start of the civil actions protesting against and resisting the “final solution” of the Third Reich, thus saving Bulgaria’s Jewish community.


Analyzing whether there is a link (separated in time by almost 65 years) between the two events, and the source of the close ties, the Ambassador continued: “I believe both represent crucial junctures in the development of the Bulgarian nation; both attest significantly to important features of Bulgarian national spirit and character which substantiated the historically critical choices Bulgarians had to make on those two occasions: once in the 1870s in favor of their freedom, to exercise their right to an independent national being. And a second time – in the dark years of WWII – in favor of human dignity, in support of universal human virtues and values as opposed to the probably easier way to dishonor and complicity in the most abominable crime against humanity in the history of Mankind.


Ambassadors and Diplomats enjoying the event. (Diplomacy.co.il)

“These are actually also the choices made, and the values and principles shared, by the people of Israel. These are the values and principles that are shared by both our peoples and which are the foundation of our peoples’ affinity for each other, of the friendship between our two nations”.


Ambassador Mr. Sterk concluded by graciously acknowledging the assistance of those who had helped make the exhibition possible, including Tel Aviv Municipality and the Bulgarian Institute of Culture. This is the very first time this exhibition has been shown in Israel.



Marking his nation's Independence Day, the Kenyan Ambassador to Israel,  Lt. Gen. Augostino S. K. Njoroge, delivered a rousing and heartfelt speech on Sunday December 12 at the Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv.


MK Avishai Braverman (center)

The African Ambassador spoke of the strong --and decades long--- ties between Israel and Kenya. At the evening's social event, Israeli MK Avishai Braverman also delivered a speech in which he also spoke of the special ties between Israeli and Kenya, with his hopes for a strong future between the two nations.

Giving a lengthy and all encompassing speech about the long-standing relationship between Israel and this African country, Ambassador Nijoroge began by offering his "heartfelt condolences to the families who lost their loved ones" while "praying for the quick recovery of the injured," in reference to the 43 deaths incurred by the massive forest-fire, which ravaged Northern Israel just a week earlier.

The ambassador requested the audience to "remain silent for a minute for the departed souls."

The ambassador's motif focused on the emphasis of the special bilateral relations between Kenya and Israel.

"It has grown in leaps and bounds. Relations can be traced to 107 years ago when in August 1903 the then British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, offered Zionists a part of Kenyan territory, which was part of the then British East African Uganda Protectorate... at the moment, hundred of Kenyans of Jewish origin live and call Kenya their first home."

Kenyan Ambassador, Augostino S. K. NjorogeThe Ambassador emphasized that over the past 20-years, the powerful alliance was based purely on trade and economic cooperation; however, in the last decade, political bonds have improved along with the shared cooperation in different sociological fields.

"It is my desire during my tenure as the ambassador of Kenya to the State of Israel to consolidate and strengthen the already existing ties even further," he said. "Let me extend Kenya's sincere appreciation for the technical support that the Israeli government continues to extend to Kenya through Mashav. The balance of trade remains largely in favor of Israel, mainly because ISrael has been exporting primarily to Kenya with regards to high-valued finished goods."

In a kind gesture to underscore his admiration for the Jewish state, the Kenyan Ambasador offered "a toast for the good health of his excellency Shimon Peres, the President of Israel."

This festive event also featured a host of various Kenyan dance and music with performers flying in from Kenya especially for the event.  This showing of "soft power" by incorporating pieces of Kenyan culture to another eclectic culture like Israel remains a welcoming sight to the ever-changing face of international diplomacy.



Photos by Diplomacy



In her first appearance at an Israeli university, Brazilian Ambassador to Israel - H.E. Maria Elisa Berenguer - addressed guests at Tel Aviv University and discussed the special relationship between Israel and Brazil as well as Brazil's newly accelerated diplomatic efforts across the Middle East.Ambassador Berenguer (Photo by: senado.gov.br)


Assuming the post as ambassador only four months ago, Ambassador Berenguer expressed her amazement at both the fast paced environment in Israel and how regional events themselves are rapidly changing on a day to day basis.  Mixed with its surging economy, it is these rapid developments that have motivated Brazil in undertaking a new diplomatic track as opposed to the country's previously held strategy of 'quiet diplomacy'.

Those familiar with the latest current events in Brazil know that Latin America's most populated and largest country has become a thriving economic force as it has established itself as one of the top ten economic giants across the globe (as measured by GDP).  With this, Brazil can only assume a greater role in world diplomacy while trying to expand its "friendly neighbor" policy worldwide and with special attention to the Middle East.

In specifically addressing Brazil's foreign policy efforts towards Iran, Ambassador Berenguer explained that Brazil is adamant in its belief that all nation's have the right to a peaceful nuclear energy program and that her country is attempting a new strategy in approaching the Iranian government with regards to its nuclear program.  

Referring to the recent meeting between Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ms. Berenguer explained that, "He [President da Silva] had long conversations with Ahmadinejad about the Jewish people and stressed the importance in not denying the Holocaust."

As Dilma Rousseff is set to assume the Brazilian presidency on January 1st (she will be the first woman to fill that role), Ambassador Berenguer stressed the importance in continuing to pursue a similar diplomatic policy towards the region. "Brazil has been a long time friend of Israel and worked very hard behind the scenes in favor of the UN's resolution, which lead to the establishment of the State of Israel," stated Ms. Berenguer.  

And although many Israelis may feel uncomfortable with Brazil's extended hand towards the Iranian regime, Ambassador Berenguer made it clear that Brazil will continue to pursue an agenda that publicly stresses the importance of Israel's security.

Ms. Berenguer said she is looking forward to her stay in Israel and expressed her commitment to maintaining and strengthening the overall ties between her country and Israel.

For more on the Brazilian diplomatic mission to Tel Aviv, visit http://www.brazilianembassy.org.il/

Photo Jose Cruz








On Thursday, December 2nd, the Royal Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv hosted a gala honoring the King of Thailand on his 83rd birthday.  The extravagant celebration coincided with the country's National Day.



Ambassador Chartsuwan

The event, celebrated simultaneously throughout many countries, brought together ambassadors and an array of representatives from the diplomatic community as they took part in the festivities, which also recognized the healthy relationship between Israel and Thailand themselves.

Ambassador of Thailand to Israel, H.E Chatchawed Chartsuwan commenced the evening with a brief speech in which he expressed his gratitude to the government of Israel, poignantly describing the strong ties that have united both countries over several years. Ambassador Chartsuwan said he was proud in acknowledging the fact that Thailand was one of the first Asiatic countries to recognize the State of Israel.

Chartsuwanmade it clear that Israeli tourism to Thailand has had and continues to have a huge economic impact on his nation. According to the Thai Ministry of Tourism, roughly 140,000 Israelis visited the Southeast Asian nation thus far as 2010 comes to an end.

Another key point Ambassador Chartsuwan touched upon was the mutual benefit that both nations have been afforded from their scientific and technological cooperation as well as the artistic and cultural events presented by the Thai community in Israel, such as the Thai Festival in Haifa. These events, as explained by Chartsuwan have "consolidated a strong sense of pride and a future filled with unity between the two countries".

In culminating his speech, Ambassador Chartsuwan discussed his intentions in deepening the cohesiveness between both countries, expressing that "in these times, one can neither ignore nor reject globalization." He also expressed his admiration for Israeli President Shimon Peres and the contributions that he has made to both the State of Israel and the global diplomatic community.

Dr. Uzi Landau addresses guestsFollowing the Thai Ambassador, Israeli Minister of Infrastructure and Development, Dr. Uzi Landau, expressed his warm regards for both Thailand's diplomatic mission to Tel Aviv as well as the entire Thai nation.

"I came to speak as a representative of the people of Israel, wishing the best to your Majesty, the King of Thailand and all of his people."

Dr. Landau also focused on the vast cultural and economic ties, most notably referring to the strong links over the past couple of years specifically.

The majority of Landau's speech was dedicated to the impact that Thai immigrants and workers have had on the Israeli state itself. Referring to the agricultural contribution and influence, Landau made clear that "Thai immigrants in Israel have made enormous strides in furthering Israel's Agricultural landscape, and we cannot thank them enough."

Not only did Landau express his desire for maintaining the strong commercial ties between the two nations; rather, he expressed the need for further cooperation in building a common agenda with mutual goals across many sectors – an agenda that will carry both nations towards future successes.

Above all else, the evening was a great way to celebrate the strong achievements between Israel and Thailand while also honoring the rich traditions of the Thai Kingdom and its nation's history.



Guests of the Latvian Embassy in Tel Aviv gathered at the Einav Cultural Center to celebrate the nation's Independence Day as well as its cultural contributions to the world and its storied Jewish past.



The Republic of Latvia has faced insurmountable obstacles in establishing itself as a contributing member within the European community as well as on the world stage.  Despite the obstacles throughout the Baltic nation's history however, the resilience of the Latvian people in their pursuit of self-determination and global success has remained persistently strong as the republic embarks on 92 years of independence - an independence represented in two stages:  1918-1940 and 1940-1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Amidst a large gathering of guests and close friends within the diplomatic community, Latvian Ambassador to Israel, the Honorary Mārtiņš Perts, highlighted the global vision for his country going into 2011 as well as his desire to see larger strides taken between Israel and Latvia in fortifying the already strong relations between the two nations.


Latvian Ambassador PertsThe 2010 celebration in Tel Aviv - normally Latvian Independence day is celebrated on the December 18th - was purposely pushed forward as to coincide with a special exhibit on Latvian philosopher Isaiah Berlin, being displayed at the Einav Cultural Center in central Tel Aviv.  The exhibition, 'Isaiah Berlin and the Riga of His Time' - in cooperation with the National Library of Lativa - portrays the intellectual culture and history of Riga at the beginning of the 20th century with a focus on the city's Jewish community - a community that all but perished during the Holocaust.


"Such remarkable persons as Isaiah Berlin show the importance of the Jewish community in Latvia who have contributed and benefited the multicultural society inherent in Latvia nowadays," noted Mr. Perts, adding that the Latvian people would neither be who they are nor where they are today without the achievements of its Jewish past.

In regards to bilateral relations between Israel and Lativa, Ambassador Perts made note of key state visits between officials of each nation's foreign ministry as well as the importance of the scheduled visit of Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade & Labor, David Ben-Eliezer, to Latvia in the coming year.  The ambassador also stressed his desire for Israeli President Shimon Peres to incorporate Latvia into his list of upcoming state visits while noting that he expected 2011 to be a "intense" year regarding the levels of Israeli-Latvian economic cooperation.

"Latvia highly values the active political dialogue with the State of Israel," explained Perts.  "I am convinced that Israel and Latvia will continue to enjoy an open and constructive exchange of views regarding our common interests - both bilateral, regional and in regards to the global agenda."

Among the notable guests was Executive Director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pinchas Avivi.  Avivi spoke on behalf of the Foreign Ministiry and the Israeli people, recognizing the accomplishments of Latvian society, despite having to endure near centuries of foreign rule throughout its history.

MFA Executive Director Avivi addresses the guests


He further noted the extensive 'Aliya' [Jewish immigration to Israel] of Latvia's remaining     Jewish community after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 as well as Israel's   immediate recognition and establishment of diplomatic ties upon Latvia's "regained" independence.

For more information on Latvia and its diplomatic missions worldwide:



[photos courtesy of Carmel Skutelsky]