Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at the opening of the Guatamalan embassy in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
If countries want to be considered a friend of Israel, they need to demonstrate their friend-ship by moving their embassy to Jerusalem, according to Guatemala’s Tourism Minister Jorge Mario Chajón.
“We encourage other countries to make an important decision and transfer their embassy, because friendships must be shown in practical terms,” Chajón told The Jerusalem Post during a week-long visit to Israel.
“We are a friend of Israel, so we need to show that we are a friend. Don’t be pareve (neutral), be tachles (practical). If you are a friend, show it,” he added.
In May 2018, Guatemala became the second country, after the United States, to open its embassy in Jerusalem
. It remains one of only a few countries that have vocally supported President Donald Trump’s decision
to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The relationship between Israel and Guatemala is not just about the states or governments, but about the people. The populations of each country have been friends for many years, since even before the creation of the State of Israel,” said Chajón.
“We encourage our colleagues from other countries to join us and to be promoters of peace,” Guatemalan Ambassador to Israel Mario Bucaro told the Post.
“What we represent in this holy land is a commitment to promote peace, and you cannot be promoting that if you’re not present. Being in Jerusalem gives us the opportunity to work to-gether.”
Now seeking to deepen relations between the countries through increased tourism, Guate-mala invested heavily in one of the more dominant exhibition stands at this week’s Interna-tional Mediterranean Tourism Market conference in Tel Aviv.
Today, approximately 15,000 Israelis opt to visit Guatemala annually, and 5,000 Guatemalans make the journey Israel, but Chajón expects the numbers to rise in the coming years.
“That is why we are here for the first time, and Israel’s Minister of Tourism [Yariv Levin] visited Guatemala last year. We are coming now to show what Guatemala is all about, and what the country can offer Israelis,” Chajón said, highlighting the country’s impressive volcanoes, lakes and ancient Mayan culture.
In addition to meetings with Israeli counterpart Levin and new Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Chajón has also met with Israeli businessmen in the field of hotel hospitality, customer service and security, especially in the cruise industry.
Next month, more than 30 Guatemalan mayors will arrive in Israel to promote the exchange of tourism and expertise, and show that Guatemalan-Israeli relationships go beyond the city of Jerusalem.
“What we want to say is that we are here for the long term,” said Bucaro. “We are not here just to hold a big event by transferring our embassy. We are here to promote tourism, busi-ness, greater investment and work between our countries.”
Both Chajón and Bucaro emphasized the parallels that can be drawn between Israel’s stead-fast tourism industry in spite of security concerns and Guatemala’s resolve to ensure continui-ty in tourism despite devastation caused by last year’s volcanic eruption.
Israeli rescue teams from ZAKA and IsraAID both rushed to assist emergency efforts following the eruption.
“The disaster was a tragedy but we have recovered from it. We managed the situation well and the best way to help the country is through increased tourism,” said Chajón.
“Through tourism, people can help Guatemala. Rather than asking for anything for free, we can earn money through tourism. This will give Guatemala the opportunity to reduce poverty and tackle other problems that we have.”
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