It has been four years since Guatemala became the second country to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and at least one of its congressmen, Dr. Fidel Reyes Lee, said it will never move back.
“Politicians change, the president can change, but the people of Guatemala don’t change,” Reyes Lee told The Jerusalem Post on a recent visit to Israel for the Israel Allies Foundation Chairman’s Conference.
He said that to ensure that the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem was permanent, the government made it not just a declaration but a law that includes educating the country’s more than seven million children about Israel as part of their school curriculum.
Moreover, he said, since the move, Guatemala has named 32 streets and plazas “Jerusalem” in honor of the capital of Israel.
“It was a two-prong strategy: Education and legislation,” Reyes Lee said. “Israel has always been in the heart of the Guatemalan people – before it was a state and since it became a state.
“Guatemala was the second country to recognize Israel in 1948, and that is why we waited until the United States moved its embassy,” he continued. “When they did it, we wanted to be second, so we were.”
The embassy moved in May 2018. It is located in the Malha Technology Park.
Reyes Lee admitted that there were those politicians who opposed moving the embassy and some concerns that anti-Israel countries that do business with Guatemala might cease doing so because of the decision. However, he said, there have been no negative results.
“What we needed was political will and a lot of courage,” he said.
He explained that the love of Israel comes from the people’s faith. More than 87% of Guatemalans are Christian, including nearly 40% who are Protestant Christians, according to the World Atlas.
Reyes Lee himself is a Christian Zionist and the head of the local Israel Allies Caucus. He was also the congressperson to draft the law for moving the embassy.
He said that today he and members of the caucus are focused on fighting antisemitism.
Guatemala is an IHRA observer country. It has been partnering with Yad Vashem since 2017 on an educational project to instruct students about the Holocaust. On January 27, each year – International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust – the country hosts a ceremony so that “the Holocaust will never be repeated,” Reyes Lee said.
“The people are with Israel,” he added. “I don’t believe it is possible for that to ever change.”