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Yom Ha’atzmaut at the Israeli embassy

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Israeli ambassador Lior Keinan was excited to mark Israel’s 70th birthday with his first Yom Ha’atzmaut in South Africa, he said at the embassy’s annual celebration.
by DIANE WOLFSON | Apr 26, 2018

“Seventy years have passed since David Ben-Gurion’s emotional and historical declaration of the creation of a state in the land of Israel,” he said. “We have accomplished so much since. We have built a unique country, turning the desert into green fields, and absorbed an incredible three million Jews from 100 different countries. The most amazing thing is that we managed all this without a single day of peace and quiet.”

Keinan said he could only imagine what could have been achieved without needing to invest such a big part of Israel’s resources in the defence of its borders and citizens. “I would have said that ‘the sky’s the limit’, but even that would be an understatement as Israel reached outer-space a long time ago.”

Looking to the future, Keinan said the world was going through dramatic changes and Israel was standing in front. “Just over a decade ago, eight of the 10 largest companies in the world were banks and energy companies. Unlike the Arab world, Israel never had, and never will have, money reserves or fuel, so the last place in the Middle East you would have invested in would have been Israel.

“Today, 10 years later, most of the biggest companies are from the world of telecommunication. Today, the number one place all these companies will go to in the Middle East, and perhaps the world, is Israel. Israel has 365 international research and development centres today.”

Keinan went on to mention more advances, adding: “Imagine every village in Africa with Israeli technology making water out of air.

“Looking deeper, the world knows the help we give our neighbours – from the hidden medical assistance to the injured Syrians that arrive at our border, to the humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. We are hopeful that the dawn will reach our neighbours, as Israel craves nothing more than peace with them.”

Keinan went on to describe how Israel’s relations with the African continent had improved. “Trade between Israel and South Africa is strong and stable, reaching almost $1 billion (R12.3 billion). Direct flights between the countries will rise, leading to an increase in mutual tourism.”

Among the guests were numerous diplomats, representatives of the South African government and civil society, and Jewish and other religious leaders.

Zanele Makina, chief director of the Middle East in the department of international relations and co-operation, addressed the gathering on behalf of the South African government.

She spoke of a growing warmth between Israel and South Africa which began in 1972, prior to Israel having an embassy in the country. She also referred to the many members of the South African Jewish community who were involved in the liberation struggle.

Makina said South Africa remained Israel’s main trading partner in Africa.

“Tourism is an important mainstay of our bilateral relations,” she said, adding: “In South Africa, Israeli technologies are widely used in agriculture and in the telecommunications industries.

Between January 2003 and December 2015, three foreign direct investment projects were recorded which resulted in large job creations.

“South Africa has the greatest potential to benefit from economic co-operation with Israel as an important trading partner.”

She concluded by congratulating the State of Israel on its 70th national Day of Independence and wishing the people of Israel the best for the future.

Guests then drank a toast to friendship, co-operation and success between the people of Israel and South Africa.

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