Rivlin receives credentials of five new ambassadors to Israel

New ambassadors from Belgium, Uzbekistan, Sweden, Norway and Latvia presented credentials to President Reuven Rivlin during a ceremony held at the President's house.

President Rivlin with the Belgian Ambassador (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
President Rivlin with the Belgian Ambassador
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Five new ambassadors presented their credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, as Jean-Luc Bodson of Belgium, Feruza Makhmudova of  Uzbekistan, Erik Ullenhag of Sweden, Kare Reidar Aas of Norway and Aivars Groza of Latvia were honored by a military guard at the President’s Residence.
When greeted by Rivlin on Wednesday, Bodson, who just missed out on the previous presentation of credentials ceremony in early July, was told: “Your grandmother did something special. We will never forget what your grandmother did.”
Bodson’s grandmother Elisabeth Dereymaeker was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for trying to save a neighboring Jewish family from the Nazis by sheltering them in her home. The parents were discovered and deported to Auschwitz, from where they did not return, but Dereymaeker managed to hide and save the children – an 11-year-old girl and a baby boy – who survived the war.
One of the first places that Bodson visited after assuming his post was Yad Vashem, where he found his grandmother’s name inscribed on a plaque. She is one of 1,751 Belgians who have been honored as Righteous Among the Nations.
Bodson said that it was an emotional experience for him to be in Israel, a country he admires. Alluding to Bodson having been summoned to Israel’s Foreign Ministry over allegations that Belgium is financing anti-Israel NGOs, Rivlin said that though the two countries have their differences, there is, nonetheless, strong cooperation between them.
In his conversations with the new envoys, Rivlin raised subjects that included the 75th year of the liberation of Auschwitz, regional developments, Israel’s willingness to cooperate with more Arab countries, rising antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere in the world, the history of Jews in Uzbekistan, Arab parliamentarians in a Jewish state, ways in which envoys can assist in peace efforts for the region, the Land of Monasteries project and Jewish history in the Baltics.
Makhmudova is Uzbekistan’s first woman ambassador, and the country is particularly interested in entering into joint cultural and humanitarian projects with Israel.
With Ullenhag, whose previous posting was ambassador to Jordan, Rivlin discussed what the envoy might be able to do to help enhance relations between Israel and Jordan. Ullenhag was quite amenable to playing a role in promoting further cooperation in the region.
In conversation with Norway’s Aas, Rivlin commended Norway for fighting racism and hatred. He congratulated Aas on Norway’s election to serve on the United Nations Security Council from January. The envoy expressed particular interest in cooperating with Israel in coronavirus research.
In introducing Groza, outgoing Chief of State Protocol Meron Reuben prefaced the introduction by declaring “and for the last time...”  He was not referring to the fact that Groza was the last of the group, but that he was the last ambassador that Reuben would be presenting to the president before leaving for his new role as Israel consul-general in Boston.
Israel is Groza’s 10th ambassadorial posting, and Rivlin voiced appreciation that Latvia had sent such an experienced diplomat to Israel.