International Development, Zionism and South Sudan

 Since its independence in 1948, Israel has made significant contributions to the development of several African nations, including the sharing of KKL-JNF expertise in agriculture and desert farming.  As Dr. Chaim Koren, the Israeli Ambassador to South Sudan put it, the African continent is very important to Israel.  There is great potential in Africa.  In fact, Israel was among the first nations to recognize the world’s newest nation, South Sudan in 2011.


The fruits of nation building - a KKL-JNF forest planted near Safed.The fruits of nation building - a KKL-JNF forest planted near Safed.
Biriya Forest/Samuel Willner
South Sudan became independent in July 9, 2011.  Plagued by numerous conflicts, it is one of the poorest nations in Africa.  However, South Sudan is rich in natural resources, such as abundant water, fertile soil and crude oil, the black gold.  In fall 2011, Israel nominated its first Ambassador to South Sudan, Dr. Chaim Koren.
Dr. Chaim Koren is an experienced diplomat, and has served on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs for several decades.  Dr. Koren previously served as the director of the department dealing with Middle East issues at the Center of Political Research in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  During his tenure with the Ministry, his positions have included serving as Director of the Political Planning Division, Deputy Spokesman of the Press Division, and as Ambassador in Nepal and Consul in Alexandria.
Ambassador Koren visited Kibbutz Ketura and the Arava Institute on December 9, 2012, to learn more about the impressive research on energy, water management and agriculture taking place, and of course, the trans-boundary cooperation between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians.  He lectured to the students and Kibbutz members on “the Environmental Policy in South Sudan, Sudan and its impact on the neighboring countries”.  The lecture was  very interesting and gave us an overview of the political situation in the Middle East and North Africa.  Especially, I was captivated to learn about the political powers of the region and how Israel operates in Africa, and what its diplomatic goals are.
Ambassador Koren works passionately and has great ambition to help the South Sudanese people develop their newly established nation.  Chaim told us that to serve as an ambassador to a new nation is not an easy task but definitely more interesting, and certainly a personally challenging position.  “This is the best job so far, it is so very interesting”, he adds.
The start-up of South Sudan has been compared to the early Zionism; to the people who struggled to build their land, and yet did not give up. For example, with the support of KKL-JNF, pioneers planted trees in the desert, drained swamps for agriculture, and built towns and cities. The ideology of Zionism can help developing nations, such as South Sudan, in their nation building, which faces many challenges; it is not industrialized.  The road system is underdeveloped and from the rural areas it is almost impossible to transport goods and agricultural products.
On the other hand, South Sudan has a great advantage in terms of its water management, something that Israel doesn’t have.  The country receives rainfall eight months a year, making it an ideal environment for agriculture. The climate is tropical, and in addition, the soil is highly fertile and idyllic for cultivation.
As a new nation, it is very important to know what its vision for the future is.  “The people need to know what their expectations for the future are”, says Chaim Koren.  When it comes to nation building, it is vital to understand what it means to use natural resources wisely.
Israel is in its 64th year of independence, and is thriving.  With the help of Israel''s technology and know-how, South Sudan can learn a lot.  There is no doubt that Israel can serve as an exemplary a role model and advisor.