Monday, November 30, 2009

Costa Rica, Israel presidents meet

By Marcus Moraes, JTA

The presidents of Costa Rica and Israel, both Nobel Peace Prize winners, celebrated together the anniversary of the partition of Palestine.

President Oscar Arias was hosted by President Shimon Peres at a Nov. 29 luncheon in Jerusalem to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the fateful United Nations resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine. Peres described his Central American counterpart as “a personal friend and a man of peace.”

Costa Rica was one of the 33 countries that voted "yes" in 1947, and less than a year later, in 1948, was among the first countries to recognize the nascent State of Israel.

Until 2006, Costa Rica was one of only two countries, along with El Salvador, that maintained an embassy in Jerusalem, but both eventually yielded to political pressures and joined the other countries that maintain embassies on Israel’s coastal plain.

Both Arias and Peres have authored several books and both are Nobel laureates. Arias was awarded in 1987 in recognition of his work for peace in Central America. Peres, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 in recognition of concluding and following up the Oslo Accords.

Peres also commended Costa Rica for having an educational focus rather than a military force.

“The future does not depend on soldiers but on teachers,” he added.

President Arias planted an olive tree at the Grove of Nations overlooking Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem.

“I plant this tree to share the hope of my people in Costa Rica for the Middle East. We will energize its roots, we will dream of its branches, we will dream that the children playing in its shade know harmony and reap peace. It will be a tree of hope,” Arias said.

During the ceremony, Israel’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Ehud Eitan and the Costa Rican minister of external relations, Bruno Stagno read the planter’s prayer in Hebrew and Spanish.

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