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Yom Ha'atzmaut 2017

4 MAY 2017

Remarks by Ambassador Arthur Lenk of Israel in South Africa

Please join me in thanking the beautiful choir from the King David Linksfield Primary School. These children who sang our two anthems so beautifully are a wonderful human bridge and personify the deep connection between Israel and South Africa. It is exactly right that we continue our tradition, with you here with us again this afternoon.

This is the fourth Yom Ha’atzmaut that Ruth and I have been so fortunate to celebrate here in South Africa. We are starting to get ready to return home to Israel towards the end of July. So please forgive me if I get just a bit nostalgic in my comments today. We have been so lucky to be here with so many wonderful colleagues at the Israel Embassy, a small dedicated team that is so focused on telling Israel’s story here in South Africa.We have worked together sharing Israel’s experience in water management and innovation. You might remember that last year we did not host a national day reception, instead hosting a “Israel Water Week”, events in three cities meant to share how Israel defeated drought and how South Africa can, too. The events were part of an agreed work agenda signed by Directors General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and South Africa’s DIRCO in March 2016.

 I am glad that a number of official delegations have visited Israel over the past year, and others will hopefully attend Israel’s flagship WATEC conference and exhibition in September to see how we desalinate, recycle and carefully manage every drop of water.
Friends,
Our team has worked hard to promote trade and food security by organizing agribusiness seminars from Mpumalanga to the Western Cape. You can see some examples of impressive Israeli innovation, all produced here in South Africa, at our cool new greenhouse, just over there.

Last month, many of us were in Swaziland for a bilateral trade seminar that showed off the best of Israel’s health, food security and cyber technologies. We also donated 12 innovative, inexpensive children’s wheelchairs, just like this one, developed in Israel. And we have plans, together with the new Nelson Mandela Childrens’ Hospital in Johannesburg, to integrate these “Wheelchairs of Hope” for use there and across Africa.
Despite economic challenges here, Israel’s exports to South Africa have grown each of the last few years with more irrigation, more technology and more innovations from “Startup Nation”. Tourism in both directions continued to grow in 2016 – Israelis are the top visitors here from the Middle East and SA is #1 for tourism to Israel from Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,
During the past few years, Israel’s relationship across Africa has gone through an impressive renewal. African states have – more and more – seen Israel as an apt model of transformation success. How a small state with significant local and regional challenges can go from simple agriculture to being a world leader in advanced technology. From exporting oranges to R&D for “Apple”.

Last July, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited four African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. A highlight was a summit, in Entebbe, with seven heads of state on Homeland Security. In October, a similar summit is planned for Lomé, Togo to emphasize how Israel’s experience can save lives in Africa. And next month, the Prime Minister has been invited to Liberia meet with the 16-state ECOWAS regional group.I accompanied Swaziland’s Prime Minister to Israel last December. Leaders of nearly every political party in South Africa have visited Israel in the past two years – along with dozens of African leaders. All of these guests saw Israel for themselves and how our partnership is helping their countries. You should come, too!

In the meantime, please visit our photo booth, in partnership with our friends at El Al and see how great YOU would look in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or the Dead Sea.
Friends,This year we are marking a series of anniversaries in Zionist history. 2017 is the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The 70th anniversary of the famous UN General Assembly resolution proposing the creation of two states, just months before the birth of the State of Israel in May 1948. Later this month, we will mark 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem. And it is 40 years since Egypt’s President Sadat visited Israel, starting our peace negotiations with our largest neighbor.

We have lots to be thankful for. And still lots of work to do. To strive to reach peace with all of our neighbours in a wildly complex, dangerous region. For continued development and security for Israelis of all backgrounds. For better days for our neighbors in Syria.

I have learned, over nearly four years here, that South Africa is a complex, wonderful, inspirational place. A place, like Israel, with a painful past but where people around the world look to be inspired. My Jewish brothers and sisters have played a key role in the building and transforming of South Africa and they have an important place today to solidify development and progress here. And there is no question in my mind: so does Israel.

So thank you all for being with us this afternoon. Toda raba to my Embassy partners who did such a great job putting today’s celebration together. While my time in South Africa is coming to an end soon, it will always have a place in my heart.

Embassy of Israel in Pretoria, South Africa

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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July 2017 Edition

 
 
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