Ambassador Ilan Fluss revealed the flourishing relations between Israel and the Philippines in the fields of economy, agriculture, tourism, defense, among others during the Pandesal Forum held in Kamuning Bakery. The Israeli Ambassador also emphasized that he envisions expanding the cooperation between the two countries focusing on innovation and technology.
“Israel is a global hub of innovation and technology. We want to share our know-how with Filipinos and to work together in maximizing their potential while using smart and innovative Israeli technology adjusted to local conditions,” Ambassador Fluss said.
Israel is known as the start-up nation with leading companies in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, water technology, and more. The embassy plans to feature and introduce more of these in the Philippines.
He specifically mentioned the agriculture sector, which will benefit more in using Israeli innovation. “I recently visited Tarlac State University and I saw the impressive and successful display of the adoption of Israeli smart technology in the province,” he said.
Israel and the Philippines have existing cooperation in the agriculture field. “Every year, Filipino students train in Israel for 11 months to practice smart agriculture,” Ambassador Fluss said. “Israel offers advanced technologies and innovation in farming that it aims to share with the Philippines to contribute to its goal of attaining sustainability and food sufficiency in the country while addressing climate change,” he added.
MASHAV is Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. Filipinos in various fields were trained in Israel to further their skills in the areas of agriculture, water management, public health, entrepreneurship, innovation, among others.
“The historic visit of President Rodrigo Duterte in Israel in 2018 gave a boost to the relations of our countries. He was the first Philippine president to visit our country,” Ambassador Fluss said.
Ambassador Fluss described the relationship of Israel-PH as a multi-layer partnership. “Cultural activities bring people together. We want to feature and expose more Israeli culture to Filipinos,” he said. He mentioned the first Hebrew to Filipino translation of the Etgar Keret book and the Israeli Film Festival this November as few examples of the embassy’s cultural activities.
“The highlight of the film festival is the documentary of ‘Kuya Noy’ which features the OFW life of a Filipino rock band member Asin. It is important for us to know stories like this since Filipinos are an integral part of our society,” Ambassador Fluss explained.
There are around 30,000 Filipino caregivers in Israel. Their rights are protected with the bilateral labor agreement between the two governments. They are an integral part of the Israeli society. “My father-in-law has a Filipina caregiver. Our family appreciates her care and dedication,” he shared.
In the middle of the pandemic, Israel assisted the Philippines by bringing two delegations of medical experts to the Philippines. The first group shared the Israeli experience in vaccination drive campaigns and the other one shared their knowledge on efficient infection control protocols and hospital management.
Ambassador Ilan Fluss considers himself as a “diplomat balikbayan.” “I was fortunate enough to experience this great and beautiful country, its culture, and its people as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Manila in 1995. I am delighted to be back to close the circle, this time as the Israeli Ambassador,” he said.
Ambassador Fluss encouraged Filipinos to come visit Israel. “Vaccinated Filipinos can now visit the Holy Land, Old City Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Beit Shemesh,” he recommended.
Philippine Airlines is aiming to start direct flights to Israel by April next year. This is expected to boost the tourism, economy, and people-to-people relations between Israel and the Philippines. Filipinos are entitled to free visa access to Israel for 90 days.
“Israeli backpackers are excited to visit the Philippines. We are optimistic of the signs of your country opening up and recovering from the economic crisis due to the pandemic. We hope that the tourism industry will bounce back stronger soon,” he said.
Ambassador Fluss also wished good luck to Miss Universe Philippines Beatrice Gomez as she competed in the Miss Universe pageant to be held in December in Eilat, Israel.
The Pandesal Forum was moderated by Mr. Wilson Lee Flores at Kamuning Bakery, an 82-year-old bakery. The famous Filipino pandesal and Israeli challah breads were featured during the forum held on November 18 to signify the friendly relations of Israel and the Philippines.