Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog , Photis Photiu of Cyprus, President Reuven Rivlin and Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Nicolaos Quick. .
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
“Cyprus is not only a good neighbor, but your ambassador in the European Union,” Photis Photiou, Presidential Commissioner for the Cypriot diaspora, told President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday. Photiou – together with Terens Nikolaos Quick, Greek Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of Diaspora Issues and their respective delegations – were in Israel this week as observers at the meeting of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.
At the initiative of former Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky – who believes in forming coalitions of diaspora communities so that they can learn from each other, cooperate with and support each other – initial overtures geared towards the formation of a trilateral partnership began two years ago.
Current Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog is continuing with the project, and for this purpose went to Nicosia in December, where he had a productive meeting with Photiou and Quick, inviting them to continue their discussions in Israel.
As the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency is one of several umbrella groups of Diaspora Jews, it gave the visitors a certain insight into the relationship between Israel and world Jewry.
Photiou, who met Rivlin during the latter’s recent visit to Cyprus, had asked him at that time if he would bless their endeavors if they came to Jerusalem.
Rivlin said that he would – and in the midst of an extremely busy schedule, managed to briefly squeeze in the delegations – which also included Herzog and the recently elected President of B’nai B’rith International, Charles O. Kaufman.
This diaspora coalition is not the only trilateral partnership of its kind in the region. There is also one with Egypt, which is called Nostos, and is a Return to Roots Forum which meets in different parts of the world. The next meeting is scheduled for the last week of March in Melbourne Australia, the city with the largest Greek community in the world outside of Athens.
Photiou noted that in the trilateral partnership with Israel, in addition to cooperation in matters of energy and security, there is also diaspora.
“We want to bring our communities together in the US, Europe and Australia,” he said.
Quick stated that Greece’s foreign policy is not only being an honest broker, but being an honest friend.
In this context, he said that Greece has adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and the Greek ministers for Education and Religious Affairs are doing all they can to combat antisemitism.
Quick voiced concern about election results across Europe where antisemitism and the policies of the extreme Right are increasing.
“We have to work in solidarity, humanity and equality to get the Europe we want,” he said.
Kaufman said that he would be at UNESCO in Paris and the Human Rights Council in Geneva in two weeks’ time to discuss the dangerous rise in antisemitic incidents around the globe.
One of the most common challenges to all diaspora communities is maintaining the interest of third and fourth generation diaspora youth in their roots, their traditions and their culture. Quick announced that a joint roots trip of Greek, Cypriot and Jewish diaspora youth will take place in August.
Rivlin said that over a period of 2,000 years, the Jewish Diaspora was scattered over many countries, and due to the geographic separation, not all Jewish Diaspora communities were aware of each other’s existence. But after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews from seventy countries – with different customs, traditions and languages – came together and formed a nation.
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