I was born and raised a proud Zionist. My parents, who grew up in Colombia, instilled in me a love for the Jewish state. I always believed in Israel’s right to exist, but it wasn’t until I started school at the University of Florida that I realized how much of an impact advocating for Israel would have on my college experience and my life in general.
I was excited to learn that Colombia and Israel have had 60 years of diplomatic relations, considering many other Latin American countries don’t have reputations as friends of Israel.
Luis Szapiro, the President of the Colombia-Israel Chamber of Commerce told me that the free trade agreement between Israel and Colombia presents big opportunities for both countries. Colombia is now able to export to Israel, and in return gain investment from technology companies. It will especially benefit the agricultural sector.
Relations between Colombia and Israel have been consistently good for many years no matter the politics of the leadership of each country. According to Szapiro, Israel is a friend to Colombia and supported the peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A Colombian delegation was sent to Israel to be trained to clear landmines following the peace pact, which ends sixty years of conflict. Israel has also invested in improving infrastructure. A global Israeli construction company will be building a toll road near Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
Israel has also helped farmers replace cocaine-producing plants with food crops. A year ago, a DEA operation revealed that Hezbollah was tied to a Colombian cartel in a money laundering ring. This was the only negative news I found while researching.
Another area that has improved due to positive relations is education. A delegation of school principals and teachers traveled to Israel in February to learn strategies that will strengthen local schools through a program called Education towards Sustainable Development.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely traveled to Colombia last month to participate in the Summit of the Pacific Alliance and help with counter terrorism. One of the objectives of Hotovely’s visit was to expand the export of Israeli technology, especially water solutions.
The mission of the Pacific Alliance, which is an initiative of regional integration between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, is to become a platform for economic and commercial integration with emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.
After moving from Colombia to the United States and making such a deep connection with Israel, I am proud that all the countries I consider home have such positive relationships with each other.
By CAMERA Intern Ilana Sperling