To commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations between Serbia and Israel, the Ambassador of Israel in Serbia spoke with Reminder about everything that brings our peoples together, cultural and scientific exchange, but also revealed the reason why Israeli tourists like Belgrade so much.
This year, Serbia and Israel are celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations. Our two countries have a lot in common, how will this jubilee be commemorated?
It is true we have a jubilee to commemorate, but we are also celebrating a long history of friendship between our two countries. I think there is something very primal linking the Israelis and the Serbs through our past, our common history, mentality, the way we think, how we react to things… In the geopolitical environment we live in, we have quite a lot in common.
We are planning to implement a whole set of important activities to commemorate the jubilee of diplomatic relations. These celebrations overlap with a major celebration in Israel, which will commemorate what we call the Jubilee Year, the milestones for our country, starting from 1897, to 2017.
In general, our idea is to bring Israel closer to the people who live here, so that they can get to know the history of Israel, its politics, current situation… We also want to thank Serbia for a long friendship and to point out that, during Israel’s long history, Serbia had always been there – not just in the 25 years of diplomatic relations, but since the establishment of the State of Israel.
For example, this year we are celebrating 100 years of Balfour Declaration, the first interntional document to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland, and Serbia was the first country to recognize this declaration. This is something Israel appreciates and remembers. I would also like to note that the ancestors of Theodor Herzl, founder of Israel, originally came from Zemun. We are very close and I think this is an excellent opportunity to talk about that. Usually people focus on the Holocaust and our suffering during the World War II. The fact is, we have many other things in common, positive things and events that bring us together.
How much has been achieved so far in terms of concrete cooperation between Serbia and Israel and what are the potentials that we could use more intensively?
In a political context, our relations are very good. Both sides have wide-open doors, if we are talking about dialogue, which is honest, amicable and open.
There are also activities pertaining to economic exchange and investments. I think there is a potential there that is not insignificant. I say this primarily because of the great friendship between the two countries, the investments that have already been made and those that are planned. There is also the cultural exchange which is very successful.
Exactly, guests from Israel can frequently be seen at Serbian festivals. Their performances and exhibitions, as a rule, raise a lot of interest and are excellently received. Is there a field of culture where we could achieve better results?
I understand why the public here finds Israeli art so attractive. Serbian art is also well received in Israel. The majority of projects we present in Serbia are at a very high professional level. In addition, artists from Serbia and Israel have so much in common, in terms of problems, challenges… I don’t mean just in the geopolitical context, but also in terms of economic situation, all daily matters that weigh on us.
Israeli film is quite successful and has been collecting awards world-wide, so we have numerous film-related projects. Books are being translated to Serbian. There is also music, dance… As for very verbal arts, such as the theatre, the message and the emotion are somewhat more difficult to transmit. It is even technically more demanding, so in this field, our cooperation is somewhat less intensive.
What does your agenda have as an objective for next year, in this field?
Science is the field we would like to focus on. Science is not quite culture by definition, but I see it as a product of intellectual potential, so it is a part of culture in a way. We want to focus on concrete benefits we can get from reinforcing academic relationships between universities, bilateral conferences, joint research, academic exchange… I feel there is enormous potential there.
It seems that the number of Israeli tourists visiting Serbia has sky-rocketed. What do they find most interesting in Serbia? In addition, you’ve been living in Belgrade for some time now, what is it that you like to recommend to your guests?
When they ask me how come Israelis discovered Belgrade so abruptly, I always say it is strange that they hadn’t discovered it before. Somehow, when they come here, they feel at home. It is impossible to explain, but almost all Israelis who come here feel it. It is not so much that I can define this phenomenon, but I feel it intuitively. Of course, low cost flights have made Belgrade an affordable destination, and they came with numerous promotions that helped with the sudden increase of the number of Israeli tourists.
On the other hand, Serbia is interesting to Israelis for many reasons. We have sun, water, sand… Israeli tourists are not looking for beaches. We are interested in culture. We are very interested in traces the Jewish people have left all over Europe. Jewish culture in Europe was completely destroyed, there are few traces in Europe that have been restored… And people are searching for their roots, researching their ancestry.
We feel welcome here. People are kind, they love Israelis and they show it. Belgrade is, in general, a very safe city. Satisfied tourists pass their impressions on to their friends, who then follow in their footsteps. At the beginning, they would only visit Belgrade, then they started exploring other locations. Today, they can be found all over Serbia. Personally, I enjoy spending time outdoors with friends. I love active vacations, hiking, skiing. I am enchanted with the beauty of your country.
By: Miljana Nešković