Four new ambassadors presented their credentials on Wednesday to President Shimon Peres.
The envoys were Canada’s Vivian Bercovici, who is a firsttime ambassador; Pajo Avirovik of Macedonia; Richard Laus Angualia of Uganda; and Tamara Mugosa, the first ambassador of Montenegro to Israel.
Peres will be hosting one last round of similar ceremonies some time in July after which new ambassadors will be presenting their credentials to President- elect Reuven Rivlin.
Bercovici is the fourth member of the Jewish faith to be appointed as Canada’s ambassador to Israel and said she felt indescribable pride and honor to have been asked by the government of Canada to represent the country in which she was born and loved “in another country which I love.”
During the ceremony, Peres praised Canada’s prime minister and foreign minister’s devoted and unconditional friendship with Israel and spoke about Canada’s Jewish community, whose members, he said, were proud Jews and proud Canadians.
One of the differences in this credentials ceremony was the presence of newly installed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
While senior Foreign Ministry officials who deal with the country of any new ambassador are expected to attend the ceremony, and even the director- general sometimes attends, none of the veteran staff at the President’s Residence could remember a deputy foreign minister in the reception line.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether this was a new policy, Hanegbi said that he had been asked by the ministry whether he was interested in attending and he replied in the affirmative, and that he plans to continue doing so because it contributes to the prestige of the event.
Macedonian Avirovik and his wife, Marianna, are fluent Hebrew speakers. He first came to Israel in 2008 to open his country’s embassy, then returned as ambassador in 2009, serving until 2011 when he was appointed as Macedonia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
He was very pleased, he said, to be able to return to Israel and to continue to work toward enhanced relations between the two countries.
Macedonia places great significance on its relations with Israel, he said, and wants the excellent political dialogue between the two governments to expand into other fields.
Also present at the meeting was Dan Oryan, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Balkan Department, who is Israel’s ambassador-designate to Macedonia.
Mugosa, who sits in Montenegro, and Angualia, who is stationed in Cairo were appointed as non resident ambassadors.
Mugosa said that as a candidate for accession to the European Union, Montenegro is part of the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation project, of which Israel is a member, so there will be many areas in which the two countries can cooperate.
Although Montenegro’s Jewish population is only 300, she said the Jewish community is building a new synagogue and a new community center.
Alluding to the Middle East peace process and what Peres will be doing after he leaves office, Mugosa said that dialogue is sometimes more productive when it is away from the area of conflict. He offered, in coordination with the Peres Center for Peace, to host an Israeli-Arab dialogue in Montenegro.
In his discussions with the ambassadors, Peres spoke of his recent visit to Rome and his immensely positive impressions of Pope Francis, who he said has given new meaning to religion and its values, and is the best pope that has ever been.
Because of this pope, he said, relations between Catholics and Jews has never been closer, and he hopes that Muslims would also form part of this relationship.
Angualia, who is a devout Catholic, thanked Peres for hosting the pope and for praying with him in what he said was a significant search for peace and world unity. “The world knows the contribution that you [Peres] have sown, germinate and grow.”
Referring to Rivlin, Peres said: “The person who is going to succeed me is a worthwhile candidate for whom I have great respect.”