The most striking part of my recent visit to Ethiopia was that everyone I met – from my taxi driver to the President of the country – was keen to welcome us as “family.” Each time I met someone and told them I was part of a delegation of Jews from around the world, they told me the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. I had not realised that this genealogy was so central to Ethiopian culture. They trace their history back to that ancient royal meeting, and are adamant that the line of their beloved Emperor, Haille Selassie, was the result.
So according to Ethiopian history, the historic visit of Israeli President Rivlin to Addis Ababa, was simply renewing a long-standing relationship of 3,000 years. And the welcome the delegation received was a reflection of this: Israeli flags flying next to Ethiopian ones at every turn of the road, from the airport to the hotel, we could not have felt more welcomed.
The goal of President Rivlin’s delegation was to create cross-sector partnerships between Israel and Ethiopia, through collaboration between Israeli and Jewish civil society NGOs, private companies and the government.
As part of this effort, several Pears Foundation grantees partnered to create “The Impact for Good” conference, which took place during the President’s visit. In cooperation with the President’s office, The Society for International Development (Israel branch), OLAM, and JDC put together a conference for over 250 participants from Israel, world Jewry and Ethiopia. Conference participants heard inspiring speakers, visited sites of current development projects, and watched as several MOUs were signed to solidify the relationships that had been built.
Not only was the event historic because of the partnership between Israel and Ethiopia, it also marked the first time the president of Israel had invited world Jewry to work collaboratively on a shared agenda. A number of immediate results were evident in the MOUs that were signed during the conference, cementing agreements around healthcare, solar energy, and geospace projects.
We hope and expect this will be just the beginning of this renewed relationship between two countries and two peoples that go back for thousands of years. It was a privilege to be present as this relationship was affirmed.