On Wednesday evening, November 30th, a collection of diplomats, politicians, artists and community leaders came together at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to celebrate the National Day of Romania. The event, held by the Romanian Embassy, celebrated Romania’s historical achievements as well as present and future Israeli-Romanian cooperation.
The evening opened with a stirring rendition of the Romanian and Israeli national anthems performed by Monica Schwartz.
Ambassador Andreea Păstârnac, who studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at Bucharest University, then addressed the crowd in Hebrew.
After thanking the event’s co-sponsors, Ambassador Păstârnac spoke of the strong Romanian connection with Israel and the historical ties between the nations, citing several early cities (including Zichron Ya’aqov and Rosh Pina) that were founded by Romanian pioneers. He also spoke of more recent diplomatic events, including visits by the Romanian Foreign Minister Lazăr Comănescu and the President, Mr. Klaus Iohannis. The Ambassador declared her country’s staunch support for Israel, especially in light of the wildfires which recently ravaged much of the country.
Romania’s National Day commemorates the December 1st, 1918 unification of Romania after World War II. Ambassador Păstârnac recalled the many Jews who contributed to Romania society at that time, including Eli Wiesel, artist Iosif Isser, and author Paul Celan, as well as Romanian Jews who have contributed to Israeli art and culture over the years.
The Ambassador chose to highlight specifically the science and technological cooperation that has been the focus of recent diplomatic initiatives between Israel and Romania. She mentioned Israeli-Romanian achievements in a range of scientific and technological areas, including the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) initiative project, based in Romania, which is the largest of its kind in the European Union. The Ambassador also gave credit to many great Romanian scientists and thinkers, noting in particular the Jewish mathematician Solomon Marcus who passed away in March 2016.
Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology, MK Ofir Akunis, complimented Ambassador Păstârnac’s Hebrew skills before reiterating the Ambassador’s message on Israeli-Romanian cooperation in science and technology. He also thanked Romania for its aid during the firefighting efforts of the previous week, and spoke about Romania’s key role in prior diplomatic efforts, including the lesser-known fact that the Israeli-Egyptian peace accords signed in 1979 actually began in 1977 in Romania. MK Akunis closed by discussing Israeli tourism in Romania, and expressed his own hope to visit Romania and continue this partnership in science and technology.
MK Yossi Yona followed Mr. Akunis’s remarks. MK Yona, himself an Iraqi Jew, spoke of the many great artistic and cultural contributions of Romania, including those brought about by Romanian Jews. As the child of immigrants, he spoke of the ability to build a new life in Israel while maintaining a strong connection to one’s place of birth, and how Romanian Jewish immigrants to Israel have done this.
Indeed, among the guests at the celebration were a number of successful Israeli-Romanian authors who continue to publish books in Romanian. Also in attendance was Rabbi Ephraim Gutman, who heads the Yaakov Yosef--Rav Zvi Gutman Synagogue and the Jewish Romanian Heritage Center in Tel Aviv. The center was named after Rav Ephraim’s two older brothers, Yaakov and Yosef, who were murdered in 1941 by members of the fascist Iron Guard movement, and after their father Rav Zvi Gutman. Dr. Alex, who accompanied Rav Gutman to the celebration, told Diplomacy about the richness of Romanian Jewish heritage, which included successful Ashkenazi and Sepharadi Jews and was one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe before World War II.
Throughout the celebration guests enjoyed delicious refreshments, including a special collection of the finest Israeli and Romanian wines and traditional Romanian music and dance. This year the celebration featured wine from wineries in Romania that are produced by Israelis of Romanian heritage, in a unique spin on the pioneering spirit and success of the Romanian immigration to Israel and the strong binational ties. Romanian singer Laticia Boroi entertained the crowd with traditional Romanian folk music, and was soon surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd of nostalgic dancers.
Between the venue, the speakers, and the guests and atmosphere, Romana’s National Day Celebration in Tel Aviv exemplified the cultural and intellectual achievements of Romania and the strong ties between Israel and Romania.
Photo Silvia Golan