Presentation of ambassadorial credentials becomes a family affair
New Colombian envoy has a cousin in Beit Hanassi
The ceremonial presentation of credentials by new ambassadors to the president is usually a formal, solemn event, with military honor guard, police or military band and a reception committee made up of senior Foreign Ministry and presidential staff.
It was all this and more for three of the four ambassadors who presented their credentials to President Shimon Peres on Monday.
But Colombian Ambassador Dr. Isaac Gilinski introduced a much more informal ambience and even gave a big hug to one of the people in the reception line. Gilinski is a third cousin to Yona Bar-Tal, nee Gilinski, who is second in command in the president’s bureau.
Usually calm and collected, Bar-Tal was excited well in advance of Gilinski’s arrival, even though she’s been in touch with him during the month and half since he came to Israel.
Gilinski is the second member of his immediate family to serve as Colombia’s ambassador to Israel. His brother Lazar was ambassador some two decades ago.
In contrast to most other parts of the world, the Latin American countries are not the least bit troubled about sending Jews to represent them here. The envoys of Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and El Salvador are all Jewish, and in the past, Guatemala also had a Jewish ambassador.
“It’s almost a family reunion,” said Peres, telling Galinski that he had an ambassador in Beit Hanassi in the person of Bar-Tal.
Galinski and Peres are longtime acquaintances. Peres has twice visited Colombia and met Galinski, an influential Jewish community leader and the owner of a small loans bank in Colombia. They have also met in international forums.
“I know you as a leader and now I want to see you as a diplomat,” said Peres.
What Peres didn’t know was that Galinski is also a singer and composer. Galinski presented Peres with a copy of his CD, and in return received a CD from Peres of “Ray of Hope,” for which Peres composed the lyrics, with singers from around the world adapting them to different melodies.
Galinski told Peres that Colombian President Alvero Uribe Velez is eager to come to Israel before his term expires. Some 70 percent of Colombians want Velez to serve a third term, but he is prevented from doing so by the country’s constitution. Colombians will soon hold a referendum as to whether the constitution should be amended so that Valez can serve a third term.
Peres met Velez recently in Copenhagen and was greatly impressed by him, especially by what he has done to improve security for his country’s citizens.
Recalling one of his visits to Colombia, Peres said that he was there as the guest of the Colombia Air Force and was trying to buy two destroyers from Colombia for Israel.
Galinski came to Beit Hanassi accompanied by his senior staff, his wife, his son, his two daughters, his son-inlaw, Venezuelan-born Pedro Seidl and former Israel ambassador to Colombia Haim Aron and his wife Maria. Members of the family each kissed the mezuza as they went through the doorway.
Seidl and his wife Tanya are new immigrants who live in Ra’anana. He works in hi-tech and has also brought some new fitness concepts to Israel.
Galinski told Peres that he intended to run the best embassy that Colombia ever had.
“I’m very quipped.
“You’ll do very well in Israel,” replied Peres. “We’re all modest.”
The first ambassador to present credentials was Sri Lanka’s Donald Perera, who Peres noted, has exchanged a military career for a diplomatic one. Perera was his country’s chief of the armed forces and before that, he was the commander of the air force.
Perera said that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to clear the country of terrorism. The Tamir Tiger rebellion had been quelled some two months before Perera resigned from the armed forces.
Peres expressed admiration for the way in which Sri Lanka has developed since the quelling of the rebellion and
he offered Israel’s assistance in further development, especially agriculture. Peres also offered Israel’s assistance in matters of security.
The third and fourth ambassadors to present credentials are non-residents Yosiwo P. George of Micronesia, who is stationed in Washington, and Rwanda’s Prof. Joseph Nsengimana who came attired in his country’s national costume, which is a toga-like garment worn over a long-sleeved shirt. He resides in Addis Ababa.
Both men were in Israel for the first time.
Micronesia has consistently voted with Israel at the United Nations and Peres thanked George for his country’s enduring friendship and “outstanding” support.
“I don’t know the size of your country,” he said, “but I know the size of your friendship.”
George stated that Micronesia greatly values its relationship with Israel.
“We look to Israel as a leader and share values and interests,” he said.
He was also eager to work on cooperative projects with Israel to advance his country’s economy and likewise asked for technical assistance. Peres assured him that Israel would always be ready to help Micronesia.
To Nsengimana, Peres said that Israel regards him as a very special ambassador, “because you represent the moving story of your people.”
Israel could empathize with the Rwandan tragedy, Peres continued. Because there are so many Holocaust survivors in Israel,”we can understand the feelings of the people of Rwanda. It’s an emotional relationship.”
DR. ISAAC GILINSKI