Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO) 

Herzog attends Expo 2020 Dubai

President Isaac Herzog opened Israel’s national day at Expo 2020 Dubai, after which he held a diplomatic working meeting with Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

By Erin Viner

As part of his landmark state visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Israeli President and First Lady Michal Herzog opened Israel’s national day at Expo 2020 Dubai yesterday morning.

The pair were welcomed with an honor guard, after which the Israeli flag was raised and the Israeli national anthem HaTikvah (the Hope) was performed in the central plaza at the event, according to a statement TV7 obtained from the President’s Media Advisor.

The World Expo is hosted every 5 years by different nations. Selection of the UAE by the Bureau International des Expositions marked the first time the global event has been held in the Middle East. All participating countries open national pavilions to exhibit major features of theirs own cultures, histories, advancements and visions for the future.

So far, more than 600,000 people have visited Israel’s Pavilion in Dubai, including heads of state and ministers from around the world.

“Israel has much to offer on our global platform. And so we are pleased to have you at this engagement with us, at Expo 2020 Dubai. We are proud to host the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region and of our warm Emirati welcome to the whole world,” said the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner-General of the event, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, adding that the participation of 192 countries is a testament to his nation’s “efforts to bring the world together into one unified platform in a bid to build bridges, engage in constructive dialogue, and develop sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges.”

“We strongly believe that what unites humanity far outweighs what divides it,” underscored the Emirati Minister.

Israeli President Herzog said he welcomed “this exciting opportunity to see this beautiful land,” calling the Expo “a huge achievement for all of you, and also a huge achievement for Dubai itself and the brave leaders of this country – whom I have had the privilege of meeting. It is a remarkable celebration of each nation’s unique identity. It is also a reminder of what can be accomplished when we work together to break down borders by connecting minds and imagining a different future.”

“As the President of the State of Israel I am proud of Israel’s contribution to the vision of a common future, as we have seen on display over the past several months here and in Israel, where I had the honor to inaugurate the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv,” he said.

“Israel is a country in which obstacles become opportunities, and where the impossible is a tantalizing challenge. This pavilion has provided a phenomenal taste of what we have to offer— from water-tech and sustainable agriculture to public health, to smart cities and ground-breaking solutions for a circular economy. It has also been a stage for the beautiful mosaic of cultures, faiths, music and arts, that make up Israel’s vibrant society. And it has been a practical display of cooperation between nations, of the future we can all imagine. This imagination turned into reality right here, when the UAE and its leaders daringly signed the historic Abraham Accords,” said President Herzog, according to the statement.

Expanding on benefits yielded by the two nations since signing their historic 2020 peace pact, the Israeli leader pointed out that, “This was a decision not only to normalize ties, but to shape a new tomorrow for the next generation of both our nations and of the entire region.”

In the “short time” since forging ties, said the Israeli leader, bilateral trade “has topped $1 billion, more than 120 agreements have been signed, and a $100 million bilateral R&D fund was established just very recently. Israelis and Emiratis are studying together and learning each other’s cultures and languages. 250,000 Israelis have already visited the Emirates, and we await many Emiratis traveling to Israel following COVID.”

Underscoring that, “Part of the novelty of the UAE is the combination of an innovative spirit and forward-thinking approach, with deep respect for the glorious Muslim tradition,” he continued, “We, the people of Israel, as children of the same Abraham, share your high regard for religious faith bound with ingenuity. We admire the course you have charted.”

The Israeli leader then expressed what he called his “hope and belief” that “more and more nations will soon follow the UAE’s lead and join the Abraham Accords” toward “a brighter, more sustainable and more peaceful tomorrow, for our nations, our region and the entire world,” before concluding in Arabic: “May God bless you and grant you long lives. Thank you very much.”

After leaving the Expo, President Herzog met the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

According to the statement from the Israeli President’s office, the two leaders addressed the “special common history” shared by their nations, as well as the “deepening collaboration in the fields of trade, innovation, tourism, and investment.”