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The Holocaust was one of the darkest periods in human history, but the brave individuals who took bold steps to save the lives of strangers represent beacons of humanity. Last week the Embassy of the Philippines in Israel commemorated the legacy of one such hero, President Manuel Quezon.


At a time when Europe had gone dark, and Jewish refugees were being turned away from many countries, President Quezon opened the doors of the Philippines, offering safe haven to Jews in need. This courageous step came despite vocal opposition from the US State Department (which at the time exercised control over entry to the country). In total, nearly 1,300 Jews were saved in the Philippines, but Quezon was willing to take tens of thousands more and had pressured the US government for more visas, even pledging his own land to house Jewish refugees.


The Embassy of the Philippines held two events this week to continue the important mission of educating about this inspiring story. On October 27, the film Quezon’s Game premiered in Tel Aviv, with guests of the embassy enjoying the drama based on the true story of Quezon’s efforts. On October 29, Balai Quezon--Quezon House, was inaugurated at the embassy, as an educational center to honor and promote the values of Quezon’s “Open Door” policy.

 


 

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Strategic Communications and Research, Mr. Ernesto C. Abella, was in Israel to join both events. He noted that the efforts of the Philippines to save Jewish lives reflects “the belief in their basic right to exist and pursue a life of freedom and fulfillment,” a fundamental sentiment that was unfortunately absent during much of this dark period.


Philippine Ambassador to Israel Mr. Neal Imperial explained that Quezon’s Open Door policy “remains the cornerstone of the deep and lasting friendship between the Philippines and Israel and that Balai Quezon was a fulfillment of a half-decade dream “to find a place that would honor this special moment in history between our peoples.”

 
Gilad Cohen, Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs added his own blessings to the efforts of the Embassy of the Philippines in Israel, and the Israeli Embassy in the Philippines, to educate about this important story, and informed the audience that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs had requested that Yad Vashem, Israel’s premier Holocaust museum, give formal recognition to the Open Doors policy.

In addition to diplomatic guests of the embassy and those with ties to both countries, those in attendance included Jews who had survived the war years in the Philippines, such as Mr. Max Weissler and Ms. Margot Pins Kestenbaum, “Manilers” who now live in Israel. 


Diplomacy.co.il congratulates the Embassy of the Philippines on these important efforts to promote stronger ties between countries and highlight the fundamental humanity of Quezon’s message.

 

Photo 1- 

DFA Undersecretary for Strategic Communications and Research Ernesto C. Abella (center), Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial (left), and Mr. Yaron Mayer, Director for Southeast Asia Department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (right) during the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony to inaugurate the Balai Quezon (Quezon House) and launch the exhibition entitled “The Philippines and Israel:  An Enduring Friendship, A Growing Partnership”.   
 
Photo 2- (L-R) Unveiling of Quezon portrait. Mr. Yaron Mayer, Director for Southeast Asia of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; DFA Undersecretary Ernesto C. Abella; Ambassador Neal Imperial, Consul  Shimon Weinbaum; and artist Celeste Lecaroz during the unveiling of “Manuel L. Quezon in Spontanrealismus”
 

 Photos provided by the Embassy of the Philippines

Steven Aiello
Founder--DebateforPeace
 

 

 

 

The Embassy of Spain in Israel hosted a celebration in honor of the National Day of Spain, on October 22. Diplomats, expats, and Israelis with commercial or cultural links to Spain joined the celebration, held at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. 

The formal portion of the evening began with the anthems of Israel and Spain. H.E. Manuel Gómez-Acebo opened his remarks by pledging a significant Spanish presence at Yad Vashem in January for 75th the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. The ambassador noted that Spain takes anti-semitism very seriously, both in legislation, and law enforcement, as well as in promoting education about the Holocaust.

Ambassador Gomez-Acebo highlighted several achievements in Israeli-Spanish relations. First, the Royal Spanish Academy approved unanimously to include the National Academy of Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). Moreover, the international Congress of Researchers of Spanish History was held in Jerusalem for the first time at the Hebrew University, with over 600 participants. The ambassador also noted that an Israeli academic, Professor Ruth Fine, was elected as chairperson of the congress. 

 

 

This was also the end of the four year program by which Jews of Spanish descent whose families left were expelled in 1492 were eligible to receive Spanish citizenship. The ambassador informed the audience that over 132,000 Sephardic Jews have requested citizenship during this program. To mark this occasion the ambassador called up the oldest recipient of Spanish citizenship, and presented him with his new Spanish passport.

Following the ambassador’s speech, Minister of Tourism Yariv Lavin was called to speak on behalf of the Israeli government. The minister stunned the crowd by presenting his speech in fluent Spanish. Minister Levin cited the rich history of Jewish Spanish scholars, artists nad leaders, and their influence on greater Jewish society. He also mentioned contemporary Spanish culture, and the strong ties between Israel and Spain. 

Following the speeches, the ambassador and the minister held a toast to the success of Spain and Israel. A flamenco guitarist then took the stage, and guests enjoyed dinner and the live music.

www.diplomacy.co.il salutes Spain on this important day and we wish to continue the close ties of friendship and cooperation with Israel

 Photos courtesy of the Spain Embassy in Israel
 
 

 

 

 

The crème of Jerusalem diplomatic elite gathered last week at the Inbal Hotel, in response to the invitation of Guatemala’s Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Mario Búcaro, to honor Werner Loval  Guatemalan Consul in Jerusalem.

In his address to the gathering, the ambassador said: “We are here to honor a true friend of Guatemala, whose legacy goes way beyond just recognition. He was Israel’s first ambassador to our country 60 years ago when Israel opened its first embassy in Central America, and we all remember his grace and dignity, and his willingness to serve both Israel and Guatemala. Today, thousands benefit from this alliance and friendship. His legacy prevails.” He added many warm and endearing remarks about the new Consul.

Ambassador Búcaro then presented Mr. Loval with a beautiful commemorative plaque and at the same time, in a heartfelt gesture, a beautiful bouquet to Mr. Pamela Loval.

In response, Mr. and Mrs. Loval’s son read out their acceptance speech. Speaking on behalf of his father, he noted Guatemala’s strategic support for Israel way back in 1947 when the UN voted to partition British-Mandate Palestine into Arab and Jewish states; then in 1949 when Guatemala headed a small group of countries to invite Israel to become a United Nations member – the 50th UN member! And again in 1955, when Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem – the 1st country to do so.

He noted too that today, all Israelis appreciate that the Guatemalan embassy is now back in Jerusalem. “Mr. Ambassador – this happened on your watch, as did so many other achievements!” He ended his address with a heartwarming “Viva Guatemala, viva Israel”.

Before the generous buffet dinner that followed, the national anthems of both countries were sung. H. E. Amb. Búcaro sang the Guatemalan anthem, of course, and then to the surprise of many, Israeli anthem as well. What a gesture of empathy.

 

 

Among the many distinguished guests in attendance were Ambassador Meron Reuben, Chief of State Protocol in the Israeli Foreign Ministry; Ambassador Modi Eprahim, Deputy Director-General for Latin America and the Caribbean MFA and Ambassador  Oren Bar El, Director for  Central América and México in the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Mrs Fleur Hassan-Nahoum .

 

The director and staff of www.diplomacy.co.il join in wishing Consul Loval continued success.

Photos Courtesy of the Guatemalan Embassy in Israel

 

 

 

 

On Thursday October 10, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan hosted a farewell reception in honor of Ambassador Doulat Kuanyshev and Mrs. Gulmira Mamytbayeva, who are leaving Israel. Members of the diplomatic corps, economic, social and community leaders, and expats gathered to recognize the ties between Israel and Kazakhstan, and the contribution of Ambassador Kuanyshev to strengthening that relationship.

 

 

The Ambassador began his remarks by thanking his embassy staff, as well as greeting the guests. He talked about the many relationships he had forged in his five years in Israel, and the progress made in advancing bilateral relations between the countries.

 


 

Following Ambassador Kuanyshev's remarks, he was presented with a gift on behalf of the members of the foreign diplomatic corps, in appreciation of the ambassador's lasting contribution to bringing the countries together. Guests then enjoyed dinner and music in the ambassador’s garden.


Diplomacy.co.il offers best wishes to Ambassador Doulat Kuanyshev and Mrs. Gulmira Mamytbayeva, and thanks Ambassador Kuanyshev for his efforts to promote bilateral ties between Israel and Kazakhstan.

 
 
Photos provided by the Kazakhstan Embassy
 
Steven Aiello
Founder--DebateforPeace
 
 
 

 

The elegance of Tel Aviv University’s glittering Smolarz Auditorium was the appropriate site when the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Israel celebrated the country’s 70th anniversary. A glittering location for a glittering party hosting the glittering guests. It would be easier to list who wasn’t there from Israel’s diplomatic corps, government officials, Chinese residents and visitors, and Israeli VIP society members, but it’s impossible not to mention Ron Prosor, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Chief of State Protocol in the Israeli Foreign Ministry - Meron Reuben, GilaCohen, (deputy director general for Asia and the Pacific in the Foreign Ministry) , Tzachi Braverman  the secretary of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister;Nitza Raz-Silbiger, Director of State Protocol, Yona Bartal, representative of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, Asher Ben Artzi, former chief superintendent of the Israeli Police and Superintendent Moti Meiry representative of the Israeli Police.

His Excellency Ambassador Zhan Yongxin and other embassy staffers greeted arriving guests and welcomed them to the lovely reception in the glass auditorium lobby. Guests mingled happily, partaking of the generous buffet dinner and open bar (including beer from China with special labels to mark the occasion), greeting old friends and making new ones. The mix of languages was exciting, with Hebrew speakers almost outnumbered by Chinese and English – and many other tongues. It was a fine mix of cultures, an indication of China’s importance on Israeli the diplomatic scene.

Guests were then invited into the main auditorium for the evening’s entertainment. The Shanghai Chinese Orchestra (SHCO), founded in 1952, was brought to Israel especially for this event, for this one performance.

The Ambassador opened the proceedings with a memorable address, first welcoming the guests, and then with a fascinating outline of China’s amazing economic, diplomatic, technological, scientific and cultural advances over the years. The Chinese statistics are mind-boggling; perhaps the number that amazed your correspondent most was the fact that China is Israel’s second largest trading partner in the world, and that in 2018 alone, trade between the two states amounted to almost $14 billion. Tourism is growing quickly too, with multi-airline direct flights being added between Israel and China at an unprecedented rate. By the end of the first half of 2019, 80,000 tourists from China had already entered Israel.

In conclusion, H.E. congratulated Israel and her people once again, and raised a glass in a toast to prosperity for the host country.

 

 

MK Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Minister of Absorption & Immigration, responded on behalf of the State of Israel. After thanking the Ambassador for his kind words, and after congratulating the People’s Republic of China on reaching her 70th anniversary, he noted that with China at 70, and Israel at 71: “ …neither of our nations are young, since they represent civilizations that have existed for thousands of years with rich histories and cultures that contributed much to humanity as a whole in so many ways. While we each sit at opposite ends of the Asian continent - China in the East, Israel in the west - we share between us many values, such as the sanctity of family, education and excellence. These values serve as a basis for the understanding, friendship and trust between our people.”

Mr. Gallant spoke of expanding multi-lateral ties, of expanding trade and of further understanding and dialog between the nations, for the mutual benefit of both countries. “To conclude, on this special day, I would like to warmly wish you, Mr. Ambassador, and the government and the people of the People's Republic of China, peace, security, prosperity and success. May the friendship and the good relations between our two countries continue to flourish”.

 

 

A beautiful rendering of the national anthems of China and Israel ended the evening’s formalities. The SHCO performers, in national dress, took to the stage, together with their strange (to western eyes) musical instruments. The music was strange too (again, to western ears) but hauntingly beautiful. We were treated to pieces with dramatic names that included, amongst others, “The Silk Road”, “Dancing Bees”, “Butterfly Lovers” and the erotic “Farewell to My Concubine”. The words of the SHCO Director, in the program, summed it up beautifully: “Let the audience … have understanding and love of Chinese folk music … build a solid bridge of cultural communication between China and Israel”. How true.

To end the evening guests were invited back to the lobby for deserts and liqueurs, a delightful culmination to a very special diplomatic event.

The Director and staff of www.diplomacy.co.il share their good wishes to the Ambassador and to the People’s Republic of China on this auspicious occasion.

 Photos By Silvia G. Golan

© Copyright, Jonathan Danilowitz 2019.