Ms. Ambassador Tamar Samash, the Israeli Embassy in Romania celebrated Independence Day this year through an exceptional cultural event hosted by the Romanian Athenaeum on April 25. What prompted you to thrill the Romanian public on this occasion with the special Violins of Hope concert?
The Violins of Hope is a unique project- these are musical instruments that were saved from the death camps after the Holocaust and today are played by young artists all over the world as a tribute to those who were murdered during the war. As Romania chaired the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance this past year, I thought bringing the Violins to Bucharest to mark our Independence Day is an adequate way to celebrate the rebirth of the State of Israel.
You have been posted in Romania for well over 1 year and a half. If you were to review this period, how would you appraise it from the standpoint of the achievements and projects fulfilled?
Honestly, I am frustrated, because there is so much that can be done and we only have 24 hours a day. But if we talk seriously, I had the chance of creating excellent working relations in different fields, like our presence at 2016 Book Fest with 6 Israeli writers, Israeli films that were presented, many economic meetings that led to agreements between Israeli and Romanian companies, VIPs visits to Israel including the president, our participation in Art Safari and a great number of Israeli artists musicians, dancer and comedians that performed all over the country. I had the opportunity to visit different parts of Romania where we presented Israeli achievements and take part in symposia and conferences in universities… but there is so much more that can be done.
Next year, Romania and Israel will celebrate 70 years of uninterrupted bilateral diplomatic relations, a fact that outlines the powerful joint desire to share the values of democracy in a continuously changing world. What is, in your opinion, the main lesson of these 70 years of friendship?
Next year Israel is celebrating seventy years of independence and it is remarkable that Romania and Israel have been close for so many years and that those relations have overcome even the worst of times. Romania was the only country in the soviet bloc that did not break its diplomatic tie with Israel in the aftermath of the six days war. The special links between the Israeli and Romanian people is based on the same spirit and values and the willingness to understand each other. Israel had to confront difficulties in the first years of its existence and we admire the way Romania has surmounted its own crisis. We are always happy to cooperate and share our experience and that is the real meaning of our friendship.
What can you tell us about the events that are currently being prepared to mark this anniversary?
This year is the year of Jubilees.
There are going to be special events celebrating specific chapters and important events in our history: 70 years of independence but also 120 years since the First Zionist congress in Basel , 100 years since the Balfour declaration, 70 years since The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. We will commemorate 50 years of the reunification of our capital Jerusalem and 40 years since the historic visit of president Sadat in Israel, which led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and different activities marking these events are planned all over the world
A significant number of Romanian Jews are living in Israel, having a powerful bond with the two states and representing, throughout time, the foundation of relations between Romania and Israel. What is this special human connection’s impact on rendering bilateral ties dynamic, but also in general, on the development of the relationship between Israel and Europe?
The state of Israel was created to provide a homeland for the Jewish people from all over the world. It is a place where we can affirm our own identity, and be the masters of our own destiny. Many Jews from Romania came to Israel after the Second World War and establish their home in what was the land of their ancestors. Today the Romanian culture is very vivid in Israel, the music, the food, the humour. Many Israelis of Romanian origin are present in all the domains of life in Israel, the economy, the media, the arts, and they have an impact on everyone. Some of them feel still very close to Romania, visiting the country and even starting business in a country that is close to them for the benefit of the two states. And Romanians that come to Israel feel at home as the mentality is somehow very close to that of Israelis, the warmness, the family spirit, the love of good food and vine, and many people that speak their language
What lessons do you think Romania could learn from Israel, a global pioneer in the field of scientific research and innovation, in order for the Romanian healthcare sector, which has been facing a lot of problems in recent years, to become as efficient and performant as your country’s healthcare sector?
Romania has all the right ingredients to develop an efficient and performant health sector. In fact many Israeli physicians have made their studies in Romania and are consider excellent doctors. But today we can see that the number of doctors in Romania is very low especially if we take into account the mass-migration of the Romanian medical personnel. There is cooperation between doctors and medical facilities in Romania and in Israel and we hope that this kind of exchange will continue and develop.
How can the two countries’ comparative advantages be best combined to lead to a rise in the presence of Israeli investors in Romania, but also in trade? I am referring to Israel’s expertise and experience as an advanced country with performant technologies and to Romania’s human potential and natural resources.
Romania is the gateway to Europe, it has extraordinary human capita, natural resources and abilities to produce and compete in the European market as well as many other markets.
Israel has know-how, innovative capabilities and technological advantage.
Given the great strategic relations and connection between these two countries’ people – combining the two is a must.
Israel is one of the world’s pioneers in an area not too many are aware of – free trade agreements.
Israel’s network of free trade agreements with the US, Canada and the Mercosur in South America and others can serve as a platform for Romanian-Israeli collaboration in the international trade system.
This way, products can be produced in Romania and then exported to Israel for further processing. After this process and based on achieving a new status of Israeli origin, these products can enjoy the benefits of Israeli free trade agreements in foreign markets. This will surely be a WIN-WIN situation for both our countries and our people.
The two governments have initiated cooperation in the cyber-security field for some time now. What are the main achievements at present and how this collaboration can be extended to render safer the world we are living in?
Cyber security has become worldwide issue. Israel’s cyber security expertise has evolved naturally from its constant vigilance, both online and off and at all levels has become center to Israeli governmental strategy.
In the past 2 years we have initiated cooperation between Romania and Israel in the cyber-security field. Thus, we organized a series of events and activities tackling both commercial and governmental aspects in this field. 2016 was an intense year: in July we organized a Cyber Event in my residence where the most important stakeholders (commercial companies, critical infrastructures, banks, law enforcement etc…) of the industry participated together with speakers from Israel. We continued with a commercial event in September where we brought 13 of the most important Israeli cyber companies. The event was a real success – more than 160 B2B meetings happened and Israeli companies had the chance to showcase their technologies to the most important Romanian stakeholders. November was the “next stop” in the cyber roadshow – we brought an influential Romanian delegation to Israel to the biggest fair in the region –“Israel Homeland Security and Cyber”. Among the participants to this important event we had: banks, critical infrastructure companies, governmental representatives and private companies.
Moreover, we are aware about the Cyber Security law that Romanian is working on and we think we can share best practices in this respect. We will continue our hard work in this important field and we are planning a series of events this year also.
Romania has recently concluded its presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. How do you characterise the Romanian mandate at the helm of this body and the Romanian Government’s involvement in the fight against anti-Semitism?
Romania’s presidency led by Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu was challenging, but he managed to get exceptional results. The main issue was agreeing on a definition of anti-Semitism, and ambassador Constantinescu succeeded in reaching a consensus between the members of IHRA. I can definitely say that Romania’s presidency was noteworthy and successful. Seventy five years after the horrors of the Holocaust, the Romanian government has confronted its past and huge efforts are made to fight anti-Semitism and teach the young generations the lessons of the history
How do you see the solution/solutions to the major conflicts in the Middle East region? I am primarily referring to the situation in Syria.
Tragically the situation in the middle east is ungraspable – and as you pointed out there is not one solution, but multiple solutions that have to be reached to restore a suitable and appropriate environment for the millions of people that are affected by the conflict. The conflicts between the different factions created a monster ISIS, but the other protagonists are also drowning in the abyss of inhumane acts. Israel is trying not to get involved in this internal belligerence but cannot ignore the fate of thousands of wounded victims that need medical help that we can provide. Field hospitals were erected near the border and we accept and treat all the wounded from the battlefields.
Talking about the scourge of terrorism, which strikes ruthlessly and unfortunately ever more often in all regions of the globe, what would be the main advice that your country – hard tested by this phenomenon throughout time – could give to countries that are going through such trials?
Unfortunately Israel has been confronted for decades with terrorist acts, from hijacking our planes and attacking our Olympic athletes, to deadly aggressing civilians, done by inhuman creatures that did not hesitate to blow themselves up amidst a crowd of women and children. This behaviour has now spread to the western world. Today no one is secure. The only advice I can give is to reinforce your security and intelligence. The most important is not to let fear disturb your life because this is exactly the goal of terrorism
If I can add something: We have covered different aspect of Israel’s reality, from the Holocaust to the achievements of the modern state of Israel and I wish to share this thought with you: from the depths of the horrifying tragedy that struck the Jewish people we found the strength to raise and rebuild a nation and a homeland. Two generations later Israel is the proof that it can be done, that you can overcome your past.