On Monday November 4, the Panama Embassy held a reception in honor of the 110th anniversary of its Independence. The reception was held at the Hilton hotel in Tel Aviv and was sponsored by COPA Airlines (the Panamanian national air carrier), which is represented in Israel by the Open Sky Group.
Hundreds of guests came to congratulate the Ambassador, embassy staff and the Panamanian people on this special day. Guests enjoyed a festive Latin atmosphere with a band playing Latin tunes, as well as large variety of Panamanian cuisine.
Among the guests were Ofir Akunis, Deputy Minister of Israel's Prime Minister office, Einat Kranz Meiger, Director of the Department of Mexico Central America and the Caribbean and Shlomo Morgan, Protocol Department from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members of the foreign diplomatic corps.
In attendance were also Israeli businessmen, among them the Presidents of Israel's Bi National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gad Proper, Dudi Simcha and Amnon Dotan; Kobi Zussman, the General Manager IATA /BSP Israel; Avi Friedman, Chairman of the Israeli Panel of Foreign Airlines and the General Manager of United Airlines in Israel and many others.
After playing the national anthems of Panama and Israel, the Ambassador of the Republic of Panama in Israel, Hector Aparicio, opened the ceremony by welcoming all the guests. He praised the heroes who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Panama and described how Panama received its independence from Colombia after many failed attempts, until finally the Panamanian people managed to win independence without war or bloodshed.
The Ambassador noted that Panama was among the first countries in the UN that voted in favor of the establishment of the State of Israel. Panama attaches great value to the friendship and goodwill between the nations, and respects all religions and sects who live in the region. Panama is now a modern and dynamic country, hospitable, and one which encourages the development and attracting of business and investment from around the world. After 110 years, there are still many challenges and social issues to resolve, yet Panama is proud of its democracy and respect for human rights.
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis, spoke on behalf of the government and people of Israel, saying: "The relations between Panama and Israel are very close, reflecting a deep friendship and cooperation in a wide range of areas. Indeed, Panama has stood by Israel since our country's rebirth". "We very much appreciate Panama's support for Israel in multilateral forums. Panama was one of the few countries that voted against bringing the Palestinians into UNESCO and also was one of the few countries that voted against giving the Palestinians Non-Member State status in the UN General Assembly".
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis noted that in the past Panama has made clear that it would not support any one-sided moves and would not recognize a Palestinian state unless it was part of an agreement reached between both the Palestinians and Israel. He continued by saying that the strength of the ties between both countries was also reflected in mutual high-level visits. Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli, who is a very good friend of Israel, visited our country in 2010, followed by the visits of a number of Panama's top Ministers. Israel's former Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, visited Panama in August 2012. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Panama visited Israel in November 2012 and headed Panama's delegation in the very first round of bilateral talks between the Foreign Ministries of both countries. In this dialogue, an agreement on avoiding double taxation was signed. He also noted that during the next few weeks both countries would begin negotiations on a free trade area agreement with Panama.
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis mentioned that there is a large and important Jewish community in Panama, which has worked tirelessly to build bridges of friendship between our two countries. He concluded, on behalf of the government and people of Israel, by congratulating the government and people of Panama and said that he hopes that the cordial relations between our two nations will continue to grow in the years ahead.
Ephraim Fortis, CEO of the Open Sky Group, greeted everyone on behalf of COPA Airlines top management and shared Open Sky's appreciation for promoting Panama as a preferred tourist destination and as a hub to Central and South America using COPA Airlines' international network. He mentioned that COPA Airlines has been flying for more than 65 years in Latin America, operating from the "Hub of the Americas" in Panama to 66 destinations in 29 countries in North, Center and South America and the Caribbean. COPA Airlines has a strategic alliance with United Airlines and is a Star Alliance member.
At the end of the evening, guests were invited to partake in the excellent food, beverages, and enjoy music played by the Latin band - "Latin Power". The warm atmosphere and lively music inspired many guests to get up and dance to the Latin rhythms.
Photo Silvia Golan