Ukraine Celebrates in Tel Aviv.
From the moment we entered the grand ballroom at the Dan Panorama Hotel last Monday evening we knew this was going to be special. The receiving line, headed by His Excellency Ambassador Hennadii Nadolenko and Mr. Nadolenko, was followed by a “guard of honor” composed of smiling young ladies in Ukrainian national dress, adding a colorful welcome touch as we entered the hall. The giant ballroom, beautifully decorated and perfectly air-conditioned, was indeed welcoming. It was not hard to detect the Ukrainian influence as guests mingled over cocktails and snacks, followed by a superb buffet dinner. A credit to the hosts (and no less, to the hotel caterers and chefs).
Ukrainian, Russian, French, German Hebrew, English and more – the languages and cultures mixed comfortably as the whisky, vodka and wine flowed generously. Elegant ladies, smart cultural and military attaches, many Ambassadors and consular officials, Ukrainian nationals, Israeli business and society people and of course the media. Ukraine has been in the news a lot lately, for better and for worse, and this was an event that everyone hoped would signify only the betterment on that country.
Ambassador Nadolenko opened the proceedings with an eloquent address, first in Ukrainian, followed by a translation into English. He noted that Ukraine declared its independence 24 years ago, on the 24th August 1991. He mentioned that his country has always deeply appreciated the valuable friendship and close economic ties with Israel, with whom it shares values of democracy and the rule of law. “Today Ukraine is going through the most difficult period of its independence – a struggle for territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state. … The war in Donbas … will remain forever in the memory of the Ukrainian people, along with other tragic historical events. … Today, more than ever, the experience and support of friendly countries, including the State of Israel, is valuable for Ukraine. The principle position of Israel and its support of sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine is highly appreciated in our country”.
The Ambassador took care to mention: “We expect that the upcoming visits of the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to Kyiv and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko to Jerusalem will significantly influence bilateral relations. … We are looking to the future of our country with optimism, despite the difficulties being experienced by Ukrainian people today”.
In his kind comments he also noted that: “Among the most devoted friends we would like to highlight and thank all immigrants from Ukraine in Israel, all those who over the last year supported the Ukrainian people in different ways. We are [also] grateful for the humanitarian aid of Israelis to temporarily displaced persons from Donbass, for help to Ukrainian children, for support in the treatment of wounded in ATO Ukrainian soldiers, for manifestations in support of Ukraine, … for support by people who are not indifferent to Ukraine”.
Responding on behalf of the State of Israel, Minister Ofir Akunis, Minister for Environmental Protection, thanked the Ambassador for his kind words, and congratulated the Ukrainian government and people on this auspicious occasion. He spoke of the shared heritage: “The strength of the relationship between our two nations is based both in the heritage of the Jewish community in Ukraine, which has a rich history going back centuries, and in the contribution of Israeli citizens who emigrated from Ukraine and brought the value of that shared heritage with them to their new home”. The Minister reminded the audience that no less than three former Israeli Prime Ministers were Ukrainian born: Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, and Moshe Sharet.
Minister Akunis spoke of the growing trade and cultural relations between the countries, especially the increase in agricultural, medical and research & development bilateral relations, for which the Ukrainian Embassy and Ambassador Nadolenko have played an important part.
However, Mr. Akunis did not gloss over the dark years of Ukrainian-Jewish history, culminating in WW2 when millions of Jews were annihilated. The anti-Semitism of past years is over: “We welcome the growing awareness of these events in recent years, and the Government's zero-tolerance policy towards expressions of anti-Semitism. We hope and are confident that this positive trend will continue”. He ended his address this: “Mr. Ambassador, please convey our heartfelt congratulations to your Government and to the Ukrainian People on the occasion of your National Day. May Ukraine enjoy peace and prosperity, and may the bonds of friendship between Ukraine and Israel become ever stronger in the years ahead”.
A beautiful live rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem, followed by the Israeli anthem ended the formal part of the evening, with the Ambassador and the Minister raising their glasses in a toast to the two friendly countries.
The executive director and staff of www.diplomacy.co.il join in congratulating the government and the people of Ukraine on their national day celebrations.
Photos Silvia G Golan