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Opinions & Interviews

27 Jan 2019

Israeli ambassador: Belarus-Israel relations are more about family ties, than politics

Israeli ambassador: Belarus-Israel relations are more about family ties, than politics

MINSK, 27 January (BelTA) – The relations between Belarus and Israel are based on family contacts, rather than politics, Ambassador of Israel to Belarus Alon Shoham said in an interview with BelTA.

Speaking about his diplomatic mission in Belarus, Alon Shoham noted that his work is different from that of many other ambassadors, because Belarus and Israel are bound by special ties. “Our relations are somewhat different: they are more about family ties, than politics. Most of the time I am dealing with the Jewish community here and the Belarusian community in Israel, with cultural relations,” he said.

According to the ambassador, he is trying to promote “a family diplomacy, not a political one”, which is not always easy, as each of the countries pursues its own interests. However, at the same time Belarus and Israel have a lot in common: the two nations have been living hand in hand over a long time. “Jewish communities have always been here in Belarus. At some stage, Gomel was a more Jewish city than Haifa: Jews made up over 60% of residents there,” Alon Shoham noted.

Israel is fully aware of it. “There are many people from Belarus there [in Israel] who went there, built up the country but never forgot where they came from. This socio-demographic factor puts me in a somewhat different position compared to other ambassadors. We have a Belarusian lobby in the parliament and they have a significant weight. I know that we also have good friends here who can help us with something or give advice. It is important for us, we appreciate it,” he noted.

Such connections between the countries inspired Israel to launch the so-called heritage tourism: Israelis come to Belarus to study how Jews lived here before the Second World War. According to the ambassador, this type of tourism is quite popular. “Every region in Belarus has something interesting to offer to an Israeli tourist. We are trying not only to study the Jewish legacy, but also to show Belarus and its nature that is different from ours,” Alon Shoham said.

In his words, the Second World War consolidated Jewish and Belarusian people even more; it bound the two nations with an invisible thread. Now the countries preserve the memory of those tragic years together and try to pass it to the generations to come.

“For more than 70 years Israel has been in a way responsible for preserving the memory of the Second World War. We had to collect information about the Jews who survived these events and to document their reminiscences fast and efficiently, because we are losing these people every year,” the diplomat said.

Belarus pays much attention to these matters; therefore the official authorities in Israel are more of observers here. “Commemoration matters are taken care of mostly by the local community and civil society with support of the government in Belarus. We monitor such processes in various countries and see which of them have made good progress. Fortunately, I am in the place where the very state is taking care of this matter. It is important and heartening for the country that was built on the ashes of the Holocaust,” the diplomat noted.

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