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On Sunday night, the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv came alive with the sounds of Africa. Sunday evening ushered in Jamhuri (Republic) Day—Kenya’s national day celebrating independence. Diplomats, academics, humanitarians, business leaders and Kenyan expatriates enjoyed a lovely and lively evening of food, music and dance which exemplified the uniqueness of Kenya and its relationship with Israel.

 

The evening opened with the national anthems of Kenya and Israel performed by the dynamic team of Gilad Millo and Wendy Kimani. H.E. Mr. Jon Chessoni, Charge d'Affairs of the Republic of Kenya welcomed all of the guests. Mr. Chessoni spoke about the long-standing and staunch ties linking the two nations of Kenya and Israel. In 1963, just three days before Kenya formally declared its independence, legendary Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir visited the country to lay the cornerstone for the first Israeli Embassy in Nairobi. Israel and Kenya have enjoyed a strong relationship ever since.

 

Mr. Chessoni discussed Kenya’s important roleas one of the largest and most robust economies in Africa, as well as the East African country’s contributions to regional-level peace and stability. Mr. Chessoni became the acting ambassador in Israel when the previous ambassador left for Juba, South Sudan, to oversee efforts to reconcile differences in the difficult civil war facing that country. Kenya has also contributed to the AMISOM African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia, as well as anti-piracy efforts in East Africa.

 

Mr. Chessoni also mentioned Kenya’s efforts to promote international trade and development, including a number of recent conferences and meetings, many of which have involved Israeli cooperation. Mr. Chessoni applauded the strong ties at the governmental and people levels, and encouraged more Israelis to visit “Magical Kenya.”

 

 

 

 

MK Ayoub Kara, Israel’s Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, reinforced the message of Israeli-Kenyan partnership, specifically citing recent visits by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Kenya in July 2016 and by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Roto to Israel several months prior to that. Additionally, Mr. Kara noted, Israel and Kenya opened an important bilateral dialogue in Jerusalem in January 2016, with plans to hold a follow-up session in Nairobi in early 2017.

 

Mr. Kara discussed common challenges and opportunities for the two nations. He mentioned the threat of extremism and radicalization that challenged stability in the Middle East and East Africa—citing specifically Al-Shabab in Kenya’s case, and Hamas, Hezbollah and Da’esh in Israel’s case. On a more positive note,
Mr. Kara emphasized Israeli-Kenyan cooperation in initiatives like the MASHAV program, an international development program ranging from irrigation techniques to food security to education, with Kenya sending the highest number of participants to participate in MASHAV training programs in Israel. In closing, Mr. Kara offered his hope that ties between Israel and Kenya continue to blossom.

 

Following the speeches, guests were treated to a special performance by the eponymous group Gilad and Wendy. Gilad Millo is a the son of an Israeli ambassador, and a former diplomat himself, whose passion for music and travel has drawn him to Kenya over the years. Wendy Kimani is a Kenyan music star. The two were joined on stage by the Groove Ambassadors, an international band featuring influences from all over the world. Within minutes, the room had come alive, and guests were dancing to a combination of English and Swahili.

 

In an exclusive interview with Diplomacy, Furaha, Mr. Chessoni’s daughter, discussed her experiences as a young Kenyan woman living in Israel. The Chessonis have been based in Israel for less than a year, and although the absence of the ambassador has placed additional obligations on Mr. Chessoni, the family loves living in Israel. Furaha studies Communications at the IDC Herzliya, while her younger siblings attend an international high school in Israel. Furaha Chessoni described her appreciation for the diversity of Israel and the way in which Israeli society incorporates religion and modernity, given that religion is a central part of life for so many (Kenya itself is home to numerous religious groups, and as Mr. Chessoni pointed out, had a synagogue in Nairobi as early as 1912). She drew a parallel to Kenya’s own diversity, citing the more than 40 languages spoken by various tribes throughout Kenya. Furaha reiterated her father’s call for Israelis to come visit Kenya, telling Diplomacy that Kenya’s rich cultural and geographical landscape made it an ideal tourist destination spot.

 

The guest list at the Jamhuri celebration was similarly diverse, including not just diplomats and business leaders, but also musicians, academics and humanitarians. Israeli music superstar Idan Raichel attended with his wife Damaris, as did Ambassador Gil Haskel, former Ambasador to Kenya and current head of MASHAV, and Ambassador Emeritus Shlomo Avital, who served as a diplomat all over Africa, Professor Isaac Dagani (a researcher of African Studies and Islam at Bar Ilan University), Director of Rotary International Gideon Peiper, and numerous military attaches and political liasons. Dr. Rina Attias, who also attended the event, told Diplomacy about her work in Kenya for the Save a Child’s Heart initiative, which brings children from all over the world to Israel for life-saving heart surgery by top surgeons.

 

Israel and Kenya have enjoyed a vibrant relationship ever since Kenyan independence and are positioned to continue with many exciting collaborations already in progress. It was only fitting, then that the Jamhuri celebration in Tel Aviv would commemorate this robust link with a gala, event featuring such energy, diversity and camaraderie.

 

Steven Aiello is the Director of the Debate for Peace MUN program

https://debateforpeace.wordpress.com

 

Photo   Silvia Golan

More pics at Facebook DIPLOMACY ISRAEL

 

 

 

 

 

 

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During the one-day event, simultaneous activities on tourism and cultural promotion and highlights of the 60 years of strong bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel were featured at the Castra Mall. Around 800 Israelis and Filipinos enjoyed the cultural program that showcased multi-awarded Filipino soprano singer, Ms. Francis Anne “Princess” Virtudazo, and the best talents from the Filipino community in Israel.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, today (Thursday, 15 June 2017), in Thessaloniki, at the third trilateral summit, signed joint statements for the continued strengthening of relations.

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President Rivlin welcomed her and said, “You are a dear friend of Israel. We appreciate your strong stand on the world’s most important stage, in support of the security of the people and the State of Israel. With your support we see the beginning of a new era. Israel is no longer alone at the UN. Israel is no longer the UN’s punching bag.”

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The President thanked the Ambassador for her great contribution to the State of Israel, and said, “Ambassador Haley, as the representative the US - Israel’s greatest and strongest ally - we appreciate very much your support of Israel, and all you do to stand up for the values of freedom and democracy which we share. Welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem.”

Ambassador Haley thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “Thank you Mr. President for taking the time to meet with us, it is an absolute thrill to be here in Israel, I so much appreciate the support we have received from the people of Israel. But I feel somewhat guilty because all I did at the United Nations was tell the truth. I have never taken kindly to bullies, and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time, and we are not going to let that happen anymore. It is a new day for Israel in the United Nations. We just got back from Geneva, talking about the Human Rights Council and hopefully it will be a new day at the Human Rights Council when it comes to Israel.”

She concluded by saying she was greatly looking forward to her visit to Israel and said, “I am looking forward to taking in the history, the beauty, the tradition, and all that comes with the magic of Israel. Thank you very much for having me it is a pleasure to be here.”

Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

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