Kathmandu: Nepal-Israel relations date back to 1960. Nepal is the first South Asian country to recognize Israel, a western Asian country, as a nation state. Ever since, the two countries have enjoyed the best of the best bilateral relations. Today, Israel is one of the most preferred destinations for Nepalis to go and work. What do Israelis and Israel think of Nepal? What are the prospects of further cooperation and engagement between the two countries? Israel’s Ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder shared his insights with Rojina Rai of Nepal Live Today. Excerpts:
You have spent quite a long time in Nepal. This is your second term as the ambassador to Nepal. What is your impression of Nepal?
In Israel, Nepal is a very exotic name. When you ask an Israeli to pick a destination, they would choose Nepal. It is the same in Nepal too. When you ask Nepali people to choose a destination, they would pick Israel. Such is the relationship between these two nations. I think the image of Nepal in Israel is very very exotic.
The diplomatic relation between Nepal and Israel was established in 1960. Nepal was the first South Asian country to recognize Israel as a nation state. Since then both countries are enjoying cordial people-to-people relationships. How does it feel to be the ambassador in this country that has a special relationship with Israel?
Let me tell you more. Not only the relations between the two countries were established in 1960. Nepal was the first country, and the only country, maybe for 30 years, to have relations with the State of Israel from this part of the world.
Israel will never forget its good friend. So this relationship has been going hand in hand for many years. We have good relations, and it is much appreciated.
You must have been to different places in Nepal and tried local cuisine. What is your favorite food and place in Nepal? Which place would you suggest Israelis should visit in Nepal?
My favorite food is momo. And please don’t ask me whether my favorite momo is vegetable momo, buff momo or chicken momo. It depends on the day, for each day of the week. Momo is a traditional cuisine. It’s delicious. It is a wonderful food.
By the way, there is a Nepali restaurant in Israel that serves momos because we can’t live without momos. Regarding the location, it is a difficult question you asked. The mountains in Nepal are amazing.
Nepal has so many treasures, whether it is Mount Everest or Mount Makalu or Mount Kanchenjunga or Jugal Mountain range or Langtang or Manaslu or Ganesh or Dhaulagiri or Annapurna. It is so difficult to make a choice between these amazing places. I would suggest Israelis to visit all of these places in Nepal.
Nepalis and Israelis are proud of their culture, language, tradition and about who they are and what they are.
What do you like the most about Nepal?
I have already mentioned about the natural treasures of Nepal. Nepal has another treasure. It is people. They are friendly people.
I think that the people here in Nepal are the second asset, the second treasure that Nepal has. So it’s a combination of nature and the people, and the culture and the language, and the traditions. All of these together create an amazing Nepal.
In your view, what makes Nepal and Israel relations special?
Our relations stand on two legs. One leg is the bilateral relations, and the second leg is the multilateral relations, which is much less famous. Regarding bilateral relations, there are so many aspects of cooperation. There is the issue of tourism, the issue of investments, the issue of scholarships, this issue of agriculture, cooperation on health and so on.
When there was a terrible earthquake in Nepal in 2015 Israel was the first country to send doctors and medical support to Nepal. Within 36 hours, Israel sent four planes with 200 doctors and a medical team. We established a field hospital in Chhauni in Kathmandu in coordination with the Nepal Army.
All kinds of bilateral issues are going on. I may not have mentioned all the aspects of cooperation. But both the countries are working together in different aspects. The bilateral relations are very very warm and very very friendly.
Nepal is the country with the highest point, Sagarmatha. Israel is another small country like Nepal, which has the lowest point, the Dead Sea. From this perspective, what do you think about the prospect of tourism promotion between Nepal and Israel?
Nepal and Israel have jointly issued a stamp depicting the highest and the lowest places on the earth. This is a matter of friendship between the highest and the lowest extremes. I think this is an amazing cooperation because although we are very far we are very close.
We also took stones from Kalapathar of Everest. Two stones from Everest have been placed in the Dead Sea. A monument was built there.
Likewise, Israel established a monument in the Everest region of Namche Bazaar placing two stones from the Dead Sea. So this is a lovely cooperation between the two countries.
We are encouraging people to come and take a photo on Everest and visit the Dead Sea. We encourage people to put both the photos of the highest and lowest points together on social media.
Israel has done a lot to promote agricultural modernization. As Nepal is also an agricultural nation, how can it take advantage of the agricultural advancement in Israel?
This is the most important message that I would love to give to people here. Agriculture is not a hobby. Agriculture is a business, a profession, and a way of life. This is how we have managed to modernize agriculture in Israel. This is the message that we are giving to the farmers. If you want to prosper, you have to put in one rupee, then you can collect five rupees. If you don’t invest, you will not collect. We share this learning also with Nepali farmers, students and others who go to Israel.
A decade ago, we launched a program called ‘Learn and Earn’. Under the program, students go to Israel for one year training. During this time, they work and get paid. They are also trained in their work. And once a week, they go to the college, do research and attend classes.
After a year, the students come back with three important things—money, knowledge, and culture of work.
In Nepal, I think 70 percent of the people are farmers. In Israel, farmers account for only three percent of the total population. The three percent population produces food for the entire people. And Israel is even exporting food.
This is the important message we want to give. You cannot stay with traditional farming. It might look exotic but it doesn’t bring money. In this era, if someone thinks of traditional farming, then he/she should forget about it. Your competitors will flood you with their merchandise, with their vegetables, their fruits and their rice.
Nepal has to move forward to modernize 3,000 student farmers who went to Israel and came back to Nepal. Wherever I go now in Nepal, I see greenhouses. I see cash crops, I see investments. And I see happy farmers. Why are they happy? It is because they invest and make money. Farming can be an income-generating profession.
Can you tell us more about similarities between Nepal and Israel?
We have different climates. I already mentioned that we have the highest and the lowest points on earth. Nepal has mountains and Israel has deserts. It’s different. But we are both small nations between big nations.
When you are a little goat, like Israel, or like Nepal, and located between big elephants, you have to be careful. You have to protect your interests. You have to look all the time to make sure that your interests are protected. Nepalis and Israelis are proud of their culture, language, tradition and about who they are and what they are.
What are the areas where Nepal and Israel can work together in the future?
The cooperation on bilateral issues is excellent. Next month, 1,000 Nepali citizens are going to Israel as caregivers. They will start working next month. This is a very important cooperation because this will affect 1000 Nepali families and 1,000 Israeli families. When these people go to Israel, it is changing the lives of both Israeli as well as Nepali families.
Let me mention why Israel is a preferred location for Nepali people. In Israel, there is no discrimination between Nepali and Israeli workers. My daughter is earning the same amount as the Nepali workers in Israel do.
In Israel, there is the same condition of work, same number of vacation days per year, same medical insurance and same treatment. There is no discrimination. This is the reason why Israel is preferred by Nepali people. I am sure that more and more Nepalis will go to Israel in the future.
Recently, you translated the Nepali national anthem into the Hebrew language. What inspired you to do so? How has the response been?
The response was amazing. It was a lovely initiative. The national anthem is a part of history. When I read the national anthem of Nepal I found that it was lovely. It is the combination of everything–from Tarai to the hills to the mountains. Your country is rich in natural resources.