NEWS Israel Debuts at EXPO

expoBy Daniel Reichel

Over 100,000 people have visited the Israeli Pavilion at EXPO since its opening on May 1. This number demonstrates how “Fields of Tomorrow”, as Israel named its Pavilion, has already become one of the focuses of the Universal Exposition.

The importance of this achievement was highlighted in the official inauguration ceremony, which was held last week.

“We are proud of this project,” said the Ambassador of Israel to Italy, Naor Gilon, for the occasion, which was attended among others, by the vice president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Roberto Jarach.

“Hospitality is a fundamental value of Jewish culture and in the coming months the Israel Pavilion will welcome all visitors who want to come and discover our secrets,” said Elazar Cohen, Israel Commissioner for Expo. He added that the message of Israel in Milan is to share knowledge on agricultural innovation with other countries. “We want to share our knowledge by giving a concrete response to the theme of Expo, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’.”

A country that has managed to save 70% of its water and which has turned barren land into cultivable fields, has a lot to teach, especially in terms of sustainability, as it was also noted.
“Those who sow in tears, real with joy,” said rav Alfonso Arbib, chief rabbi of Milan, quoting a verse of Psalms and explaining how the Jewish people have always been aware that it is much more satisfying and extraordinary “to achieve a result through hard work than to receive something as a gift.” This is what happened in Israel, further explained the Rabbi, before putting a mezuzah – a parchment with a prayer that is pinned to the doorpost of Jewish homes around the world – at the entrance of the Israeli pavilion.

The mezuzah is a “mezuzah that we carry with us all over the world” said Ambassador Gilon, “it was with us in Shanghai and Korea and we hope will be with us also in Kazakhstan and Dubai.”

Gilon in his speech went on to explain how the proximity between the Italian Pavilion and the Israeli one – located in the heart of Expo area – is not fortuitous. “I believe there is a symbolic significance, this physical proximity represents the closeness that exists between our countries and our peoples, but also the fact that Italy has faith in our technological capabilities applied to agriculture.”

The mutual trust between the governments of the two countries could be also renewed in Milan in the coming months. Gilon hinted that Milan will probably host the annual summit between Italy and Israel and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit EXPO. “Unlike others who had doubts, we were confident that our Italian friends would reach their goal and make this EXPO a beautiful reality,” added the Ambassador.
“Israel is a country at the forefront in technology for agriculture and irrigation. It holds the world record in the reuse of water in agriculture and is the only country in the world where trees and vegetation have increased over the last 50 years. For all these reasons Israel can contribute significantly to achieving the objectives set by the theme ‘Feeding the Planet’,” said the president of Lombardy Region Roberto Maroni. Maroni also recalled his recent visit to Israel, where he met the former President of Israel Shimon Peres, who has accepted an invitation to visit Expo in the coming months.

Ruggero Gabbai, president of the Municipal Commission of Milan which is dedicated to Expo also spoke on behalf of the mayor Giuliano Pisapia. Gabbai recalled how the Vertical Field, the impressive vertical green field cultivated and watered with the latest technology and the symbol of the Israeli Pavilion, is also an extraordinary example of Israeli know-how. A story to share as well so as to counter the arguments of those who seek to boycott the country. Instead, he emphasized the great effort towards environmental sustainability that is at the core of the mission of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael. The KKL is strategic partner of the Israeli Pavilion (attending the ceremony was also the president of KKL Italy Raffaele Sassun).

Among the guests of the event, which was introduced by the Israeli actress Moran Attias, and attracted hundreds of people were the secretary-general of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities Gloria Arbib, the presidents of the Jewish Community of Milan Raffaele Besso and Milo Hasbani, and the president of the Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici. Architect David Knafo and the president of Avs Malki Shem Tov, who together created the pavilion, also attended the event.