The strains of Poland’s national anthem “Jeszcze Polska Nie Zginela” (Poland Is
Not Yet Lost) rang out several times across the capital’s Rehavia and Talbiya
neighborhoods Thursday in preparation for the arrival of Poland’s new Ambassador
Jacek Chodorowicz, the first of five envoys who presented their credentials to
President Shimon Peres throughout the morning.
The other ambassadors were
Miguel de Almeida e Soussa from Portugal, Malle Talvet- Mustonen from Estonia,
Bolat Nurgaliyev from Kazakhstan and Benedikt Asgeirsson from Iceland.
welcoming Chodorowicz, Peres said he could not receive a Polish ambassador
without thinking of the Jews’ 1,000- year history in Poland, including that of
his own family.
Although the relationship between Jews and Poles had its
ups and downs, he said, by and large Jews were able to survive, practice their
religion and preserve their language and culture up until the time of the Nazi
“Under the Nazis, we were victims, you were victims, and now we
are both rebuilding for our future,” he said.
The president added that he
was greatly impressed with the progress Poland had made, and with what President
Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk had done to overcome the
Chodorowicz brought greetings from Komorowski, saying
that the Polish president looked forward to visiting Israel, but that a date had
yet to be finalized.
Responding to Peres’s comments on the Poles’ shared
history with the Jews, the ambassador said that the hoped-for opening of the
Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which was planned in tandem with the April
2013 commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’s 70th anniversary, would
probably be delayed by a few months. The museum, on the site of the razed Warsaw
Ghetto, has been in the planning and construction stages for more than a decade,
with a slew of announced opening dates missed for at least the last three years.
Chodorowicz excused the delay, which is due to an added feature – the revival of
Jewish culture in Poland after 1989.
He said that Poland was looking for
more cooperation with Israel in technology, industry and research, where it is
already cooperating but not to the optimal extent. Peres reminded him that there
was also strong cooperation in the domain of security.
has not done as well as Poland in overcoming the economic crisis, Peres told
Sousa that from what he could see, there was light at the end of the
“We know the problems you are confronting as a small country
facing the global economic crisis. To face this crisis calls for heroic efforts,
and I know that Portugal is trying to do so,” he said.
He referred to the
debate going on in Europe about choosing between austerity and investment, and
observed that Portugal was trying both.
The president noted that
relations between Israel and Portugal had recently improved, “but we could do
more in terms of scientific cooperation,” he said. “We can also enrich political
relations and work together to escape poverty and to take advantage of
With regard to improving the political relationship
between the two countries, Peres said he would like to see more exchange visits,
in particular a visit by President Cavaco Silva.
very much wants to come to Israel, said Sousa, but Portugal is going through
harsh reforms, and he is needed at the helm.
Sousa was hopeful that Silva
would be able to visit Israel next year.
There is a lot of Portuguese
interest in Israel, but not much knowledge, he said, adding that this was the
case in Israel as well regarding Portugal. The first task that he has set for
himself is to enhance knowledge on both sides. Better knowledge, he said, “will
help us to face the challenges of the global world in our efforts to achieve
peace and security.
What happens in Israel is also our concern, and we
will always be available to promote dialogue.”
Mustonen to the credentials ceremony was her husband Andres, a leading European
conductor, violinist and researcher of musical cultures.
He has appeared
in Israel several times, most recently last year, and has excellent contacts
among the country’s musicians and musicologists.
Peres told the
ambassador that she was coming to a friendly country, to which she replied, “I
feel it with every step. I’ve felt a very warm welcome.”
She said she was
impressed by the Israelis’ vibrant energy.
Declaring that Estonia, like
Israel, had excellent scientists, Peres said he was confident that the two
countries “can cooperate and coordinate on research of the brain.” He also felt
there was room for improvement in economic and cultural
Estonia opened an Embassy in Tel Aviv in November 2009, and in
2007, a synagogue officially opened in its capital, Tallinn, for the first time
in 63 years. Mustonen recalled that Peres had attended the opening.
December 2008, Tallinn also boasted a Jewish Museum.
Peres expressed his
respect and esteem for Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, going so far
as to describe him as the most important leader in Asia. He praised the
Kazakhstan leader’s initiative in inaugurating the Congress of Leaders of World
Religion – the fourth of which will open later this month – and credited him
with creating harmony by bringing together representatives of countries that
would not ordinarily meet under the one roof, along with representatives of both
state and religion. Peres recalled the impact that the congress had made on him
when he had participated in it.
Nurgaliyev said he was looking forward to
increased multilateral and multidirectional cooperation with Israel.
Underscoring that this was the 20th year of Kazakhstan’s independence, he said
that for a young state, the challenges at the beginning had been enormous, and
that the advice Peres had given Nazarbayev had been greatly
From the very beginning, said the ambassador, Kazakhstan had
chosen a policy of peaceful cooperation with countries east and west, pursuing a
path of harmony through interreligious and inter-ethnic dialogue, and renounced
the nuclear arsenal that it had received from the Soviet Union.
trying to play a constructive role in international and inter-regional
institutions,” he said.
Asgeirsson, who was visiting Israel for the first
time, works out of his country’s foreign ministry in Rejkjavik. When he met
Peres, he had already managed to tour Jerusalem, and said he was looking forward
to touring Tel Aviv and the North before returning to Iceland.
inquired about Iceland’s economy, the ambassador said it was improving and that
2.5 percent growth was predicted for this year. However, he added that
unemployment was close to 7%, which was much higher than it used to
Though Peres pointed out that this unemployment level was lower than
that of any country in Europe, Asgeirsson said that all things being relative,
it was still a lot for Iceland, where the unemployment rate had previously
fluctuated between 1% and 2%.
Relations between Israel and Iceland are
somewhat chilly, and Peres told Asgeirsson that the two countries should see
“how to warm them up” and to raise the level both politically and
Peres was in Iceland during the premiership of David
Oddsson, who hosted a lunch for him and told him in his speech, “You are the
chosen people, and we are the frozen people.”