President Reuven Rivlin received the credentials of four new ambassadors on Thursday, Do Minh Hung of Vietnam, Dr. Anjan Shakya of Nepal, Lt.-Gen (ret.) Samuel Ng’amg’a Thuita of Kenya, and nonresident ambassador Ivan Lekovic of Montenegro.
Lekovic is no stranger to Jerusalem. He was previously director-general for bilateral affairs in his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and headed the Montenegrin delegation that came to Jerusalem in 2017 for bilateral political consultations. He is also a former head of the Montenegrin accession team to the European Union.
After presenting their letters of credence, each of the new ambassadors, followed by members of his or her delegation passes through a short reception line that includes Rivka Ravitz, the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) director of Rivlin’s office. Ravitz does not shake hands with men, and stands with her hands behind her back, inclining her head as an ambassador approaches her.
But the whole of the Vietnamese delegation had been primed and each of them bowed to her without stretching out a hand.
Recalling his visit to Vietnam in March 2017, Rivlin told the Vietnamese ambassador how impressed he had been with the system of education. He asked Minh Hung to convey his best wishes to President Nguyen Phu Trong, whom he had met when the latter was secretary-general of the Communist Party, and to present him with an official invitation to visit Israel.
Listing areas of bilateral cooperation such as health, water management, agriculture and defense, Rivlin underscored “the need of our two peoples to carry the burden of security in fighting fundamentalism and terrorism.”
Minh Hung reminded Rivlin that the two countries last year celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations.
He said he had set himself three main goals during his period of service in Israel. One was to oversee the implementation of a free trade agreement. Another was to promote mutual understanding and mutual trust, and the third was to be present at the launch of direct flights between Israel and Vietnam, which will boost both business and tourism in both directions.
Shakya, her husband Ajaya Kranti Shakya, who is a member of Nepal’s Provincial Assembly, and the representatives of her embassy, all came in traditional Nepalese attire, and in the manner common in Asian countries bowed with their hands poised in supplication. Rivlin returned the bow in kind.
This is a first-time ambassadorship for Shakya, who came from backgrounds of academia and economics. Before her diplomatic appointment, she was president of Nepal’s Chamber of Commerce. She charmed everyone present including Rivlin, who thanked her for Nepal’s support for Israel in various organs of the UN and other international forums. “We consider Nepal as a great friend,” he said.
Though in Israel for only a week, Shakya had already picked up a little Hebrew and addressed Rivlin in Hebrew in her opening remarks when presenting her credentials and later during their tête-à-tête. She said that in the week that she had been in Israel, she had seen that it is “a beautiful, glorious, efficient and advanced country” and paid tribute to Israel’s Foreign Ministry for its warmth and assistance. She said that both President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli were looking forward to visiting Israel next year and had asked her to convey their invitation to Rivlin to visit Nepal.
Rivlin replied that he’d have to do some training to get to the first station in the Himalayas. “I know everything about it,” he said. “I just don’t know how to climb.”
On a more serious note, Shakya said Nepal is moving toward developing countries so as to enhance economic development, and she was hopeful that Israel would cooperate in this regard, “because Israel is one of our oldest diplomatic friends.” She also asked for Israel’s help in setting up centers of excellence in Nepal.
Also, Rivlin told Thuita that he was happy to welcome him not only as the ambassador of Kenya, but also as the former chief of the Kenya Air Force. Thuita is a missiles and radar expert.
Rivlin sent his regards to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who he declared to be “a great friend of Israel who has expressed friendship to Israel in many ways.” Rivlin also conveyed his condolences to the people of Kenya in relation to the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi. “Together with all the free world we will fight developing fundamentalism and terrorism,” he said.
As he does with every African ambassador and visiting African head of state or foreign minister, Rivlin asked for Kenya’s help in enabling Israel to regain observer status in the African Union.
Thuita said that Kenya has a long, friendly relationship with Israel, which has left an imprint on Kenya’s history. It started with agriculture and progressed to security and the fight against terrorism, he said, “but there is much more to share and gain from each other’s experience.”
Nairobi, he said, is a hub for Africa, and he hoped that increasing numbers of Israeli companies would come to Nairobi once there are direct flights from Tel Aviv to Nairobi. He envisaged that this would happen soon.
Rivlin was particularly appreciative of Montenegro’s stand against antisemitism and what it is doing in this sphere in international forums as well as in its own educational curricula. Education goes hand in hand with remembrance, he said. Rivlin was pleased that he will be seeing Lekovic again at the end of March when President Milo Dukanovic visits Israel
Lekovic said his president was happy to have the opportunity to visit Israel, and immediately invited Rivlin to come on a reciprocal visit to Montenegro.
Before Dukanovic, comes to Israel, Rivlin will host the president of Liberia with whom he has a lot more in common than with any other official guest. He who is due to arrive on February 25, George Weah, a former professional football player, who spent 18 years as a pro footballer with major teams in France, Italy and England. Rivlin is an avid football fan.
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