Grapevine: Saluting Guatemala

Guatemala was the first country to open an embassy in Israel’s capital, with Jorge Garcia Granados its first ambassador, presenting his credentials on July 12, 1955.

GUATEMALAN AMBASSADOR Mario Bucaro (left) receives the Award of Merit from Ambassadors’ Club President Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
GUATEMALAN AMBASSADOR Mario Bucaro (left) receives the Award of Merit from Ambassadors’ Club President Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 Many diplomats when making initial career choices, did not necessarily opt for foreign service. Many were academics, lawyers, economists, politicians, etc who somehow found their way into the foreign ministries of their respective countries. One such diplomat is Mario Bucaro, the ambassador of Guatemala, whose impressive curriculum vitae includes: attorney and public notary, professor, former dean of the Faculty of Law and Justice of San Pablo University of Guatemala, former president of the board of directors of the International Mediation Center of Guatemala and former secretary of the board of directors of the Guatemalan-Mexican Chamber of Commerce.
He has specialized in international mediation and conflict resolution, and in addition to his law degrees holds a degree in legal and social science.
He has extensive experience in humanitarian aid in national and international programs, and a broad knowledge of diverse geopolitical situations throughout Latin America. He has also worked in a professional capacity on projects designed to reduce poverty and has expertise in risk management of community disasters.
He initiated several developmental and humanitarian programs in the fields of health, water supply, disaster aid and education. He is particularly focused on the care and protection of children, orphans, refugees and marginalized people.
Bucaro was the guest of honor this week at a dinner reception at the Leonardo Art Hotel in Tel Aviv, hosted by the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel, in somewhat belated recognition of Guatemala moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Club founder and president Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan announced that a similar event will be held in Jerusalem in the Guatemalan Embassy. Members of the Ambassadors’ Club, in addition to heads of foreign diplomatic missions, include Honorary Consuls and Honorary Consuls-General who are Israelis, and who in some cases are the sole representatives in Israel of countries which do not have embassies here; heads of bilateral chambers of commerce and business executives who have significant foreign interests.
The occasion was used not only to introduce Bucaro to some of the members who had not previously met him, but also to present him with the award of merit in recognition of Guatemala’s return to Jerusalem.
Guatemala was the first country to open an embassy in Israel’s capital, with Jorge Garcia Granados its first ambassador, presenting his credentials on July 12, 1955. He had previously been a member of UNSCOP (United Nations Special Commission on Palestine) which had recommended the partition of Palestine, leading to the establishment of the State of Israel, and on November 29, 1947, had cast the first “yes” vote from among the countries of Latin America.
Eldan said at the dinner that previous “Meet the Ambassador” gatherings had been much more intimate affairs with perhaps 20 people in attendance, but Bucaro had made so many friends for his country since presenting his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin last October, that more than double that number had come to honor him. Among those present were Ambassadors’ Club vice presidents Sara Alalouf, Honorary Consul for Latvia; Ruth Amit Fogel, Honorary Consul for Paraguay; Yoram Naor, Honorary Consul-General for Belize; KKL-JNF vice chairman Hernan Felman, who holds the portfolio for Latin America and who mentioned the recent creation of a Guatemala park and children’s playground in Jerusalem; former Israel Ambassador to Guatemala Moshe Bachar; Oren Barel, director of the Latin American Department of the Foreign Ministry and Roberto Spindel, chairman of the Israel-Latin American Chamber of Commerce. Also present was an Israel Counter-Terrorism officer, who for reasons of security must remain anonymous. Bucaro had invited him in appreciation of what he had done in Guatemala, saying that Guatemalan security forces work hand-in-hand with Israel in combating terrorism and in preventing terrorists from entering the United States. Explaining why Guatemala chose to return to Jerusalem after having left together with other embassies in 1980, Bucaro said that Guatemala is essentially a deeply religious Christian country whose people know their Bible, which states that Jerusalem is the capital. “We are here because we believe that this is the right thing to do,” Bucaro said. “Our mandate is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
■ MEANWHILE JEWISH Agency chairman Isaac Herzog was elsewhere in Latin America, and tweeted that he was very moved to take part in the inauguration and the affixing of a mezuzah at the renovated AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which is the headquarters of Argentina’s Jewish community organizations. The building was bombed on July 18, 1994. Hundreds of people were injured and 85 were killed. Herzog was heartened to see that the community is now “thriving and leading in love of Israel, education, Hebrew and Zionism.”
JEWISH AGENCY Chairman Isaac Herzog affixes a mezuzah on the restored AMIA building in Buenos Aires.
He also attended a memorial ceremony at the Israel Embassy Plaza, where until March 17, 1992, the Israel Embassy was located. That was the date on which it was destroyed in a terrorist attack in which 29 people were killed and 242 wounded.
In an intensive schedule, Herzog met with the Federation of Principals of Jewish Schools in Argentina, and also visited the ORT School in Buenos Aires, where hundreds of children dressed in blue and white and waving Israeli flags greeted him. Herzog spoke to them about the situation in the south of Israel and told them that children of their age are unable to sleep because of the fear of rockets from across the border. He asked the ORT School students to send wishes for peace and security to their Israeli peers.
At a meeting with Argentina’s education minister, Alejandro Finocchiaro, and secretary of environment, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, Herzog reached an agreement for increased cooperation in the battle against antisemitism, hatred and bigotry, and greater attention to Holocaust studies.
He also called on Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, who was last month the victim of an attack in his home in which he was severely injured and hospitalized, but is now well on the way to recovery.
■ WHILE VARIOUS institutions and organizations that held conferences to mark the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt ignored members of the first Israeli diplomatic mission that served in Cairo, most notably Zvi Mazel, who returned as ambassador in 1997, greater consideration was given to his wife, Michelle, a journalist, translator and author, who has written in Hebrew, French and English about her experiences in Egypt. She was among the speakers at the 40th anniversary meeting organized in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square by Women Wage Peace. Also among the speakers were Yael Dayan, a former politician and a long time peace advocate and activist, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, and from abroad, Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi, the South African-born fifth grandson of civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, who led the Indian Independence Movement against British colonial rule employing nonviolent and disobedient means.
The younger Gandhi quoted his grandfather, who he said frequently stated that if peace comes it will be through the women. He added that he was very happy to be at an event marking 40 years of peace. This proves that if people truly want peace, it can be achieved, he said. All that’s needed is friendship between people, Gandhi noted. He explained the importance of friendship, because of late, the conversation has become violent. Commenting on the erroneous concept that there is peace if there is no war, Gandhi said that such a belief is incorrect, because violence comes in many guises. There are passive forms of violence, he continued, which when applied can be hurtful and can lead to physical violence. Where physical violence emanates from passive violence, he emphasized, it is within the power of every individual to stop it before passive violence evolves into physical violence. Peace is not the cessation of war, he reiterated, “peace is the creating of harmony.” Women Wage Peace, by virtue of the diversity of its members, some 500 of whom heard Gandhi speak, is an example of harmony growing out of diversity. Its members include religious and secular Jews and Arabs, people who are politically on the Right or the Left of center, affluent and poor, highly educated and barely educated. What they all have in common is a desire for a sustainable peace attained not through a ceasefire in war, but through dialogue and negotiation.
■ EUPHORIA OVER the announcement by Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila that she was transferring her country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was somewhat premature. Romania’s centrist President Klaus Iohannis is opposed to the idea, and according to Romanian law, it is he, not Dancila, who makes decisions of that nature. In the president’s opinion, to move the embassy to Israel’s capital would be a breach of international law.
■ JERUSALEM IS supposedly the city of peace, but in actual fact it is the city of discord. It is the seat of the Chief Rabbinate which eschews religious pluralism. It is home to Jews, Christians and Muslims, who have serious disagreements within their own faiths as well as disputes with each other. In the religious education system, most Ashkenazi schools refuse to accept Sephardi students. In ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, it is often dangerous for a uniformed soldier, especially one who is also ultra-Orthodox, to walk alone in the street; and the bureaucracy in state and municipal institutions is intolerable. Now, in reaction to Dancila’s announcement, Jordan’s King Abdullah, who has enough problems relating to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, canceled his planned visit to Romania. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. More chaos is on the way.