Colombian Ambassador Margarita E. Manjarrez Herrera, though a career diplomat, is also a lawyer by profession. Last year, she hosted her country's National Day reception at her elegant residence in Kfar Shmaryahu, but in the interim she has collected many more friends and acquaintances, and therefore moved the celebration to the Tel Aviv Hilton. In addition to the usual speeches on such occasions, the event included musical presentations and amazing Salsa dancers from the Ensálsate Company. No-one enjoyed them more than the ambassador herself, who danced and sang along on the floor while the two extraordinarily flexible dancers performed on stage to shouts of 'Bravo!" from the spectators, many of who also began to dance.
Representing the Government was Health Minister and outgoing Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz, who was in extremely high spirits, as if a weight had fallen from his shoulders.
The occasion was in celebration of the 212th anniversary of Colombian Independence and the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Colombia and Israel. Though Colombia had recognized Israel as early as 1949., it was only in 1956 that Israel sent Tuvia Arazi as her first ambassador to Colombia whereas Colombia's first ambassador to Israel Jose Maria Franco Ortega presented his credentials to President Yitzhak Ben Zvi in 1958.
Although cooperation and exchanges between the two countries exist on many levels, the ambassador confined herself to three areas: Climate change and energy transition; tourism; and diplomacy, culture and peace which Manjarrez Herrera believes are inter-related.
The greatest and most urgent challenge for humanity today is confronting climate change, she said, underscoring that it will be a priority for Colombia's new president Gustavo Petro who will take office on August 7.
On the subject of tourism, she said that following the pandemic, steps had been taken to reactivate tourism, and in 2021, incoming foreign tourists increased by 38%, which was higher than the average for all of South America. This year, Colombia also participated for the first time in the International Mediterranean Tourism Fair in Tel Aviv.
Even though Colombia opened its embassy in Tel Aviv in 1957, it was not until 2013 that a President of Colombia paid a state visit to Israel.
During that visit by President Juan Manuel Santos, that Colombia's Minister of Commerce , Industry and Tourism signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MASHAV, Israel's Agency for International Development and Cooperation. Colombia and Israel also signed a joint declaration to conclude their negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement. The FTA was signed three months later and implemented in August 2020.
In addition to the practical aspects of the diplomatic relationship, such as agriculture, education, defense, trade, investment, and innovation, said the ambassador, she always thought that it is culture that nourishes mutual knowledge and dialogue
For this reason, the embassy launched Colombia in Israel– A Look Through Art, an 80-page brochure, in both printed and digital versions, in Spanish, English and Hebrew. The brochure highlights Colombian art in Israel, as an essential element of its diplomacy and, as a window through which the Israeli public can approach Colombian culture and identity.
The connection between the two countries has grown, said Horowitz, noting that this was in large measure due to the courage and commitment of former President Ivan Duque , whom he commended for his courage in opening the Colombian Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Jerusalem last November.
Horowitz also mentioned the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement, and on the purely diplomatic front, also expressed thanks to Colombia for its support at the United Nations its adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, and for sending its soldiers to be part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai.
In reference to the numerous Colombians who have graduated from a variety of MASHAV training programs, Horowitz said that MASHAV considers Colombia to be a high priority country.
In congratulating Petro and wishing him success, Horowitz quipped that Colombia like Israel is standing before a change of Government. At the same time, he did not forget to thank Duque for his friendship and support.
When it came to the toasts, the ambassador invited the Foreign Ministry's Chief of Protocol Gil Haskel, who is a former director of MASHAV, and Jonathan Peled the Ministry's Deputy Director General for Latin America and the Caribbean, to join her and Horowitz on stage.
Article writed by Greer Fay Cashman / Jerusalem Post
The Staff of www.diplomacy.co.il congratulates the government, people, and Embassy of Colombia on the occasion of the 212th anniversary of Colombian Independence and the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Colombia and Israel.
Photos by Silvia G. Golan
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