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It was no surprise that the crème de la crème of the Israeli diplomatic corps and Israeli society were at the Dan Hotel on Monday evening to celebrate with, and to honor, the government and people of Bulgaria, and especially H. E. Mr. Dimitar Mihaylov, Ambassador of Bulgaria to the State of Israel. Bulgaria and Israel have a special bond, reaching back to the darkest days of WW2 when the people of that land refused to cooperate with the Nazi extermination and genocide program, and made every effort (successfully) to save Bulgaria’s splendid Jewish community. The history is long and complicated, but the ultimate result was that the 48,000-strong Jewish community survived almost intact.


The Honorary Consul of Bulgaria in Israel, Bulgarian-born Moni S. Barr introduced the Ambassador. It was only natural that in his brief opening words to the gathering, Mr. Barr, who came to Israel in 1948, made reference to the warm feelings and loyalty most Israeli Bulgarians still feel toward their mother country. “I recall my family talking about the rescue when I was still a child. We will never forget that”, he said. He then introduced Ambassador Mihaylov and invited him to address the guests.


The Ambassador’s heartwarming speech was presented in fluent Hebrew. Ambassador Mihaylov is a man of letters; he has a PhD in Islamic History from Sofia University and earned his MA in Arabic Language and Literature at Damascus University. He was also previously Bulgaria’s ambassador to Syria and has been with the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for close on 24 years – no small achievements for a man in his early 50s. He began by welcoming the guests to Bulgaria’s independence day celebrations, 137 years of development as a modern European country; mentioning too the secondary – but no less important reason for celebrating – 25 years of bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries. “Establishing relations between Israel and Bulgaria ended the unnatural situation of dissonance between friends, the result of the Cold War. …. The positive result of these diplomatic relations is the warm-hearted and unshakeable friendship and trust between the governments of two friendly nations”. He added: “The friendship is one of the foundation stones on which the future stability of our converging “backyards” stands”.


Responding on behalf of the State of Israel was Minister of the Interior Gilad Erdan. He thanked the Ambassador and congratulated him and the Bulgarian government and people on this exciting event. He too pointed out that this year the two countries are celebrating 25 years of excellent bilateral diplomatic relations. “Bulgaria is among the important friends of Israel in Europe, and your strong support for Israel's policies with regard to the political process is of particular value and importance to us. Bulgaria plays a very important role in helping Israel to strengthen its relations with the European Union and other international organizations”. He added: “The community of Israelis originating from Bulgaria is an important bridge between the two countries and the presence of Israeli companies in Bulgaria contribute much to current economic development in Bulgaria and Israel alike and to the broadening of the cooperation between the civil societies in both countries”.


Minister Erdan also made grateful reference to the manner in which the Bulgarian people fought to save their Jewish compatriots from the terror of Nazism. “The National Day of Bulgaria marks the liberation of your nation, and the Bulgarian people's journey to freedom after many years of repression. The Jewish people in the land of Israel have also experienced this type of renaissance, after having waited for generations for their country to be reborn. We too know the value of freedom, and we congratulate you on this joyous occasion and look forward to many more years of partnership”. The Minister ended with warmest congratulations to the government and people of Bulgaria.


Reni Pilossof, a singer and new immigrant from Bulgaria then gave her truly lovely rendition of the national anthems of both countries. Guests were treated to a delicious and varied buffet dinner, which gave your www.diplomacy.co.il correspondent the opportunity to circulate and to catch up on some of the famous personalities present.


Among the many ambassadors and consular officials who honored the event with their presence were: H.E. Henri Etoundi Essomba of Cameroon and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps; Their Excellencies Prahlad Kumar Prasai of Nepal, Simon Pullicino of Malta, Ernest S. Lomotey of Ghana, Nathaniel G. Imperial of the Philippines, David Cohen (former Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria and ambassador to several other countries) and Sisa Ngombane of South Africa; and many military and cultural attachés, consuls and embassy officials, including Shlomo Morgan, Director of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Protocol Department. It was a grand and elegant meeting of diplomacy, culture, society, the arts, industry and good friends.


Bulgarians in Israel are well-known as cheerful friendly people, and Bulgarian culture is firmly entrenched here, from foods, music, theater and the arts. Among the guests with “traces of Bulgaria” were business-people Ms. Matilda Alkalai and the above-mentioned Mr. Moni Barr; Shelly Hoshen, Int’l. President of the Yad B’Yad Association and nominee for the Rappaport Prize; entertainers and TV and radio personalities Alex Ansky, Levana Finkelstein and Moni Moshonov; movie producer Nissim Levy (his movie “Bulgarian Rhapsody” is making waves now) and several others.


Best wishes to Bulgaria for a bright and sparkling future.


 Photo by Silvia G Golan