Is­raeli diplo­mat cel­e­brates, talks about bi­lat­eral re­la­tions

The China Post - - LOCAL -

In July, Simona Halperin, who re­cently ended her five-year ten­ure as Is­rael’s top diplo­mat in Tai­wan, was awarded medals by the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Min­istry of Eco­nomic Af­fairs in recog­ni­tion of her hard work in pro­mot­ing Is­rael-Tai­wan re­la­tions.

On July 8, she re­ceived the Medal of Eco­nomic Con­tri­bu­tion from Min­is­ter of Eco­nom­ics John Deng for pro­mot­ing of­fi­cial and pri­vate bi­lat­eral trade.

It was one of the most “emo­tional and touch­ing mo­ments” of her time in Tai­wan, Halperin told CNA in an in­ter­view in Taipei be­fore re­turn­ing to Is­rael on July 30.

“It’s in recog­ni­tion of the ef­forts made over five years pro­mot­ing eco­nomic and trade re­la­tions be­tween Tai­wan and Is­rael,” said Halperin, who as­sumed du­ties as head of the Is­rael Eco­nomic and Cul­tural Of­fice in Taipei in Au­gust 2010.

Since 2010, bi­lat­eral trade has in­creased by 9 per­cent, reach­ing US$1.33 bil­lion in 2014, the Is­raeli of­fice said. Not­ing the agree­ment on bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in in­dus­trial re­search and de­vel­op­ment signed in April, Halperin said she ex­pected the pact to take Is­raelTai­wan co­op­er­a­tion to “a whole new level” in three to five years.

How­ever, this was just one of the many agree­ments and mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing signed be­tween the two coun­tries dur­ing Halperin’s ten­ure as Is­rael’s top en­voy.

These in­clude agree­ments cov­er­ing avi­a­tion, tourism, science and tech­nol­ogy, cus­toms af­fairs, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, ed­u­ca­tion, sports and youth ex­changes.

Of these, the most no­table have been the 2012 agree­ment on air trans­porta­tion, which paved the way for di­rect flights be­tween Tai­wan and Is­rael, and a 2011 re­cip­ro­cal visa-free pro­gram for Tai­wanese and Is­raeli trav­el­ers for short-term vis­its.

The num­ber of Tai­wanese tourist vis­it­ing Is­rael rose from 3,000 in 2010 to 6,300 in 2014, Halperin said, cit­ing of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics.

In an ef­fort to pro­mote tourism in Is­rael, Halperin ap­proached Tai­wanese travel agen­cies and dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of launch­ing pro­mo­tional pro­grams.

Most Tai­wanese tourists to Is­rael visit re­li­gious sites, but there is much more to ex­plore, Halperin said, with di­verse cul­ture and nat­u­ral land­scapes, from beau­ti­ful beaches to deserts.

To pro­mote Tai­wan in Is­rael, a TV pro­duc­tion team from a renowned Is­raeli pro­gram vis­ited Tai­wan in June, film­ing var­i­ous ex­am­ples of Tai­wanese cui­sine as they trav­eled around the is­land and ex­plored the beauty of the coun­try, she said.

The show will be a great way to in­tro­duce Tai­wan to Is­raeli peo­ple, said Halperin, who was be­hind the pro­ject.

Over the past five years, Halperin has also worked hard to ex­pand bi­lat­eral ex­changes in wa­ter tech­nol­ogy and life sciences.

How­ever, her ef­forts have gone be­yond the pro­mo­tion of bi­lat­eral ex­changes. For ex­am­ple, in the wake of the June 27 ex­plo­sion at a wa­ter park in New Taipei, Halperin con­tacted the Tai­wan gov­ern­ment and of­fered to send Is­raeli ex­perts to pro­vide as­sis­tance. Late last month, she do­nated skin graft mesh­ers to two hos­pi­tals in Taipei where some of the burn vic­tims are be­ing treated.

The in­ci­dent left nearly 500 peo­ple in­jured and has so far re­sulted in 10 deaths.

Look­ing back at her time in Tai­wan, Halperin said one of the most un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences was host­ing an Is­raeli In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion in 2011.

The event was held in co­op­er­a­tion with the Tai­wanese char­ity group Bud­dhist Com­pas­sion Re­lief Tzu Chi Foun­da­tion to help raise funds for sur­vivors of a pow­er­ful earth­quake and tsunami in north­east­ern Ja­pan in March 2011.

A to­tal of NT$21 mil­lion was raised at the event, which was used to fund Tzu Chi’s re­lief oper­a­tions in dis­as­ter ar­eas, she added. “It was a re­mark­able event,” Halperin said. “The peo­ple of Is­rael and the peo­ple of Tai­wan joined forces to help in a sit­u­a­tion of dire hu­man­i­tar­ian need.”

Halperin’s pre­vi­ous over­seas post­ings in­clude stints in South Korea and the Euro­pean Union. She will now take up a new post at the Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry.

Ex­press­ing her will­ing­ness to speak up for Tai­wan if nec­es­sary, Halperin said she would also like to come back for a visit in the fu­ture.

“I hope very much to con­tinue my close ties and friend­ship with Tai­wan,” she said, adding that she will al­ways be a friend of Tai­wan.

CNA

Pup­pet master Jhong Ren-bi ( ) points to one of his pup­pets for a photo. Jhong led the Hsin Hs­ing Ku Pup­pet Show Troupe ( ) in a per­for­mance at Tokyo’s Tai­wan Cul­tural Cen­ter on Satur­day, Aug. 1 and will take part in Ja­pan’s largest pup­pet fes­ti­val — the 2015 Iida Pup­pet Festa, start­ing Tues­day.

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