Israel's Ambassador to the Russian Federation, His Excellency Alexander Ben Zvi, visited Hadassah Medical Center in Skolkovo to partake in a ceremony marking thirty years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel. Ambassador Ben Zvi, Viktor Vekselberg (chairman of the board of trustees of the Skolkovo Foundation), Arkady Dvorkovich (the chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation), and Alexander Kuleshov (president of Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology) closed the ceremony by planting a tree together as a symbol of continued ties.
Left to right: Alexander Kuleshov, Ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi, Arkady Dvorkovich, Viktor Vekselberg, Yana Agmon. Photo: Sk.ru
The ceremony represented an opportunity to share some key moments in the relations between the two nations and some commonalities. For example, Russia-Israel ties began in 1991 when it was clear the USSR would soon end, and Ambassador Ben Zvi was one of the instrumental members in the Israeli delegation sent to establish relations in Helsinki. Yet as one speaker noted during the ceremony, Israel was created in 1948 and the USSR was the first nation to grant de jure recognition of the new Middle East state.
Like Russia, May 9 is a national day of remembrance in Israel. While from the former’s perspective, it signifies the defeat of Nazism, for the surviving Jewish people and modern Israelis, it also memorializes the end of the Holocaust (“Shoah” in Hebrew).
Hadassah Medical, Skolkovo Innovation Center. Photo: Sk.ru
The last thirty years have seen positive growth in relations between the two countries in economics, tourism, agriculture, education, visa-free travel, and innovation. The cultural ties are also exemplified by the significant portion of Russian-speaking Israelis, who made up 17% of the population as of 2017.
The Jewish National Fund, one of the organizations behind the ceremony, actively promotes tree planting, which, apart from the ecological benefits it carries, holds a special significance in Israel as a sign of dedication and friendship. A total of thirty trees were planted in Israel and thirty in Russia -- one tree for each year of diplomatic ties.
Yana Agmon, the head of Nativ in Russia, Belarus, and the CIS, moderated the ceremony.
Left to right: Viktor Vekselberg, Arkady Dvorkovich, Ambassador Ben Zvi. Photo: Sk.ru
Arkady Dvorkovich, chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation: “Thirty years since the restoration of Israeli-Russian diplomatic relations is a significant period. As the co-chairman of the intergovernmental commission, I participated in the work to develop Russia-Israel relations. Numerous agreements and contracts were signed that allowed us to move forward, increase tourism and develop economic ties. I am proud that today we planted trees together, namely on Skolkovo Innovation Center territory and in partnership with the Hadassa clinic, which was founded through the joint efforts of the Moscow government and Israeli partners. This is a great example of successful collaboration. Skolkovo will always be open to such joint projects and initiatives. The new alley will brighten up our center and will be a confirmation of the fact that together we can do great things.”
Alexander Ben Zvi, Israeli Ambassador to Russia: “In the last 30 years since the moment of the restoration of Russia’s and Israel’s diplomatic partnership, we have made significant progress. The leaders of both countries are in continual contact, delegation exchanges at the highest level continue, and mutually beneficial agreements are being signed. This progress is clearly visible in the economic sphere, the strong ties between our peoples, not to mention areas such as tourism, innovation, education, sport, and cultural exchanges.”
Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Board of Trustees: “I am glad to take part in such a ceremony which I view through the prism of the relations between our countries and peoples. The success of these thirty years and our future is an example of what exists between our two countries. Today, I represent the university component of Skolkovo. I want to say that collaboration between our science education schools and our young generations of students and scientists is the key to the undeniably bright future for our countries. I’m sure that this garden will bear golden fruit.”