By Mark Longyen, just back from Israel
When President Goodluck Jonathan visited Israel recently, important issues bordering on security, tourism, trade and agriculture constituted the core subjects of his personal diplomacy talks with Israeli President, Shimon Peres.
The two leaders pledged to increase diplomatic cooperation in these crucial sectors in their mutual and respective national security and developmental interests.
The Nigerian president killed the proverbial two birds with one stone by combining his pilgrimage to Israel with official state functions which now underscores the essence of improving Israeli-Nigerian cooperation.
“ Combating the menace of terrorism is a challenge that we must address in partnership with all peace-loving countries and peoples of the world. I seek the cooperation of your country to confront the security threat from terrorist groups that my country is now facing.
“There is no doubt that Israel has had decades of experience in combating terrorism; Nigeria can benefit tremendously from your experience in this area,’’ Jonathan was quoted as telling Peres.
Jonathan also solicited for greater cooperation between the two countries in the other sectors and assured Peres that the signing of Bilateral Air Services Agreement between them would further bolster Israeli-Nigerian relations.
Responding to Jonathan’s speech, Peres said: “Today, we also face common menaces; Nigeria and Israel have been steadfast partners in combating terror groups such as Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Boko Haram, which threaten the regional stability in the Middle –East and West Africa.’’
Peres then pledged Israel’s partnership with Nigeria in the tourism, trade, agriculture and ICT sectors that would foster mutual benefits between both countries.
Without doubt, Jonathan’s pilgrimage and state visit to Israel marked a significant milestone in bolstering Israeli-Nigerian diplomatic ties which would serve Nigeria’s over-all national security and developmental interests.
This is because Nigeria has so many lessons to learn from Israel, and can borrow a leaf from Israel’s exploits in virtually every sector with which she can confront her hydra-headed domestic challenges.
Israel presents an alluring model in curbing anti-terrorism, in tourism development, agricultural exploits, and expertise in medical science and technology, all of which Nigeria is in dire need of and which she can emulate.
This, therefore, makes Israel an indispensable strategic partner for Nigeria in her search for peace and security, tourism and over-all national development.
This becomes even more compelling when juxtaposed against the backdrop of Nigeria’s mounting terrorism threat by the Boko Haram, her vast tourism potentials and search for alternative foreign exchange earner to oil.
In the area of tourism, the entire Israeli landscape parades a plethora of holy sites which are of great religious cum historical significance to Christians, Muslims and Orthodox Jewish Judaism.
Notably, these holy sites constitute a case study in both Israel’s creativity and perfection in organising a tourism industry that is second to none globally.
The most amazing thing about this is that these sites have been preserved for years on end despite the open-ended major wars that have rocked the Middle-East and Europe.
This had subjected the Israelis to foreign rule for several centuries under different enemies who had tried at various times to no avail to destroy every trace of Jewish history and Christianity.
Available records indicate that about 3.5 million pilgrims cum tourists from all over the world visit Israel annually out of which about thirty thousand are Nigerians (nearly 1 percent).
This makes Israel one of the most frequently visited countries in the world with the country earning over 20 billion dollars annually from tourism alone which is about 10 per cent of Israel’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Underscoring the significance of Israeli-Nigerian ties in this regard, Mr Joseph Tabor, the President of Tabor Tours, a Jerusalem-based tour firm, applauded Jonathan’s support and promotion of tourism between Israel and Nigeria.
Tabor made the commendation in Jerusalem on the occasion of the recent investiture of Jerusalem Pilgrim (JP) title to some Nigerians who completed their pilgrimage to Israel.
He said that President Jonathan’s pilgrimage to Israel in October was a clear demonstration of his commitment to encouraging many Nigerian citizens to perform the pilgrimage and promote tourism.
“As a sitting president, he took timse off to come to Israel this year and performed the pilgrimage, which is very rare indeed. The pilgrimage was a clear demonstration of the president’s commitment to encouraging many Nigerian citizens to perform the pilgrimage, which promotes tourism.
“Not many countries in the world give so many of their citizens the opportunity to perform the pilgrimage to Israel through government support like in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Tabor disclosed that Israel had a Christian population of just 2 per cent and it was Christian pilgrims who trooped into Israel from so many countries like Nigeria that constituted the Christian majority.
He said that the Bi-lateral Air Service Agreement signed between Israel and Nigeria during Jonathan’s visit would further enhance tourism and development between the two countries.
No doubt, pilgrimage experience is significantly spiritually enriching and the tourism aspect is an eye-opener when one begins to compare what obtains in both Israel and Nigeria.
For instance, a Nigerian first timer would be left in bewilderment as to how and why things work perfectly in a country like Israel where the state of infrastructural development is terrifyingly amazing.
Now, given Nigeria’s plethora of tourist attractions nationwide, can she borrow a leaf from Israel’s exploits and success to turn around its vast tourism sector for over-all national development?
Mr. Ivriani Yitzchak, 74, a world-renowned artist and owner of Ivriani Art Gallery in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, said that things work perfectly in his country because Israelis are disciplined and very creative.
Yitzchak, a retired Fine Arts don from Israel’s Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jerusalem that Nigeria can learn from Israel’s success in tourism and other sectors. “Yes, Nigeria can learn from Israel, it will only take time, discipline and some creativity to get there,’’ he said.
Agriculture is another sector in Israel where creativity and discipline combine to make Israel self-sufficient in food production to cater for her population of about 8 million.
Located in the desert with almost no rainfall and difficult, rocky terrain that is unsuitable for farming, Israel has overcome all these challenges to produce large scale cash crops through widespread irrigation and government-regulated mechanized farming.(NAN)