There is an old Jewish Proverb; “A faithful friend is a powerful defense; he that has found such a one has found a treasure.” And in the relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel lives such a treasured friendship. Just last week, Azerbaijan joined a multinational group of countries, sending its gigantic Berev BE-200 fire fighting plane to Israel, at the direct order of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, to help a friend in need to fight the many wildfires that were raging out of control in the Haifa area. The depth and strength of this friendship was exemplified by the gratitude shown by the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, who met the Azerbaijani fire fighting crews who worked through the Sabbath to save buildings as tens of thousands ofIsraeli citizens were forced from their homes.


This is not the first time that these two countries have shown support for each other. Azerbaijan provided helicopters and support to Israel in December 2010 to fight wildfires, and the fighters were officially recognized by the Israeli government for their bravery. The country also provides nearly 50% of the oil used by Israel, and Israel has sent advisors to Azerbaijan in the areas of technology and agricultural practices and each country has exchanged diplomatic teams reaffirming a bond that has lasted for decades.   


This unique friendship has an important place in the global community, a secular Muslim country that has cherished freedom of religion for generations, working collaboratively with the Jewish State. This is a great symbol in a time when more and more inter-faith violence is the norm, and secularism is under attack around the world. It is important to embrace these examples of interfaith cooperation and these powerful gestures as ones that carry not just symbolism but great significance for the rest of the world.


President Rivlin spoke to the Azerbaijani firefighters on their bravery and also on the lasting friendship. "You showed us what real and honest friendship is. Until now you were heroes in your own countries now you are heroes in our country, our home as well. Each and every one of you left behind a family, home and a country and boarded a plane at a short notice to extend your hand in assistance to save lives, and I can assure you that indeed you saved lives. I don't know if you have been to Israel before, yet you demonstrated that your love of humanity has no borders. And of course I would like to invite you to visit here, in our beautiful land, in regular days.”


It is deeply significant when a government shows support at the highest levels, as President Rivlin has done. As has President Ilham Aliyev, who stressed the excellent relations his government enjoys with the Azerbaijani Jewish Community, highlighting the fact that both Ashkenazi and Mountain Jews had been living in the country for more than two millennia, and all religious and ethnic communities in the country were living in harmony with one another.


So as we watch the flames burn an entire countryside, we need to remember the importance of these friendships, remember that continuity of relationships of this nature together forms the basis for even greater economic and cultural exchanges and understanding. There is great knowledge to be learned from one’s friends. There is also great wisdom that comes from knowing when and how to capitalize on those friendships. Especially a friendship that has lasted for decades, and through times of success and also great difficulty. Azerbaijan and Israel have cooperated intimately over the last 25 years, and national security is one of many sectors the two nations collaborate on, in addition to energy, medicine, culture, academia, agriculture, tourism and more.

I am deeply proud that the Azerbaijani plane flew to help extinguish fire in 8 locations around Haifa and Jerusalem, and that those heros from a Muslim country came from a distant place to help my homeland. Over the last year, after having traveled freely from Israel to Azerbaijan and met the people of Azerbaijan, and talked to the Jews that pray freely in the communities around the country, I realize just how important it is to share these moments, to honor them and to pray that they continue. This is especially important as we currently face and endure tensions between religions and groups across the region. The positive and mutually supportive partnership between Azerbaijan, a majority-Muslim nation and the State of Israel, a majority Jewish nation, serves as a powerful template for a lasting peace; a bold alternative to the growing status quo.

Israel, take note, your friend Azerbaijan stands ready to support you in both good and bad times.  

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share