Celebrating Independence, vaccinated and hopeful
published : 15 Apr 2021 at 09:41
writer: Meir Shlomo
Today, Israel celebrates its Independence Day under very unique circumstances. It is not only a moment in which we mark the 73rd anniversary of restoration of our sovereignty in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. It is also a moment in which we conclude an extremely difficult year in a very positive and hopeful note.
After a long period of social distancing and lockdowns, Israel is now back on track. Israelis enjoying the Independence Day celebrations in the nature reserves and in street parties, celebrating in safety and joy. Israel has managed to significantly decrease Covid-19 infection rates thanks to a national vaccination campaign, called “Back to Life”. Israel has started the vaccine mass-operation in December 2020, and with a population of 9 million people, has become the world’s fastest country in vaccination rollout. So far, 55% of the population is fully vaccinated and people are free once again to meet and attend large gatherings. For Israel, this operation marked “the beginning of the end” of this deadly pandemic.
Thanks to the Israeli digitalized system of medical data, Israel is able to share with other countries, including with Thailand, the medical information which was accumulated during the rapid-vaccination operation, and suggest conclusions from its experience. Notably, all foreigners in Israel, including thousands of Thai workers in agriculture, students and diplomats, were also vaccinated.
Another significant achievement, which is a real game-changer for Israelis, is the newly signed peace agreements. Since its establishment in 1948, one of the major challenges for the young Jewish country, located a hostile environment, was the issue of national security. The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel includes from the very first day of Israel’s existence, the following statement: “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness”. Seeking peace and reconciliation with Arab countries has always been and will be, a cornerstone in Israel’s struggle for stability and long-lasting security.
This year, we have witnessed historical peace agreements, called “the Abraham Accords” that brings a new era of hope and prosperity to the region. Israel has concluded a series of historical breakthroughs with four Arab countries: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. These agreements encompass a significant potential for economic prosperity and the advancement of people-to-people relations. For many Israelis, this is an old dream, which in a gradual and cautious manner, comes true. In practice, these agreements enables the opening-up of new embassies, enhancing trade and economic activities, launching flight routes to new destinations, exchanging tourists and delegations and above all, providing hope for a different, peaceful, future.
This year was another good and hopeful year also for Thailand-Israel relations. Despite the pandemic, we have managed to welcome in Israel this year, thousands of new Thai workers in agriculture. We have also donated three new agricultural greenhouses in different provinces in Thailand and supported local farmers. We have implemented dozens of training activities, lectures, cultural events and virtual business gatherings. I do hope that with the spreading of vaccinations, we will be able to do even more.
As the world is looking ahead to reboot economy in the post–pandemic era, it is my hope that once our countries will open up to international passengers, we will be able to see once again, visitors traveling in both directions – tourists, businesspeople, investors, official delegations, experts and artists. Israelis are looking forward to return to Thailand, and I am sure that Thailand will welcome them in open arms. In the meantime, Israelis will continue to build back the country’s resilience, and will look forward to another fruitful year of independence.
Meir Shlomo, PhD, is the Ambassador of Israel to Thailand.