Peres, Dominican president forge cooperation agreement

President Shimon Peres and President Leonel Fernández Reyna of the Dominican Republic have reached an agreement for in-depth bilateral cooperation on solar energy, technology, agriculture and water conservation. Fernández, who is on a working visit to Israel, was given an official reception by Peres on Monday. Fernández was accompanied by a large delegation that included the ministers for export and investment, national infrastructure, and the office of the presidency as well as leading business figures in the fields of energy, industry, real estate and tourism. The two presidents discussed the geopolitical situation in Latin America and the relations of the Dominican Republic with its neighbors. At the opposite end of the spectrum they talked about Israel's relations with her neighbors. Fernández last week welcomed recently ousted Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya to Santa Domingo and discussed ways to have him reinstated. In Jerusalem, Fernández spoke with warmth of Israel's contributions to democracy and freedom. He noted that his country had demonstrated solidarity with Israel from before the creation of the state. In fact the Dominican Republic, under the rule of Rafael Trujillo, was one of the very few countries that provided a haven for Jews fleeing Nazism. Trujillo offered to take in 100,000 Jews, but only a fraction of that number took advantage of his generosity. Some 5,000 Dominican visas were issued to Jews between 1940 and 1945, but fewer than 700 Jews used them to come and live, temporarily or permanently, in the Dominican Republic. In November 1947, the Dominican Republic was one of 33 countries that voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that called for the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. Although the Jewish community in the Dominican Republic numbers only around 200 people out of a total population of 9,400,000, there is a Chabad House serving locals Jews and foreign Jewish business people, where Chabad emissary Rabbi Shimon Perlman began operating nearly two years ago. Perlman met with Fernández in the National Palace in Santa Domingo late last month. Perlman, who was accompanied by a group of business people, told Fernández that Chabad wanted to demonstrate its appreciation for the saving of Jewish lives during the Holocaust by using the Chabad House to encourage Jewish business and investment in the Dominican Republic. Fernández immediately offered Chabad any assistance that it needed, including funding of Chabad programs and police protection if requested. Perlman and his wife, Michal, operate a Jewish kindergarten and are active in adult education. In addition, Chabad provides kosher food for all who want it. Fernández and Perlman also discussed the president's visit to Israel, which is largely aimed at learning how to replicate Israel's technological achievements in the Dominican Republic, which suffers from dire problems in the realms of energy and electricity.