Tuesday, October 23, 2012 4:15 PM
“Bulgaria and Israel have a special bond, and history and the test of time have transformed that bond into a genuine friendship.” - Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev
President Rosen Plevneliev plants an olive tree. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
On the 22nd of October, President Rosen Plevneliev of Bulgaria
planted an olive tree in Jerusalem’s Grove of Nations, adjacent to existing trees planted there by heads of state from all over the world.
“This tree we have planted today will be a symbol of friendship between the nations, and it will grow and flourish just like the friendship between us,” declared the Bulgarian President. The existence of the Grove of Nations
is, he said, no mere chance, “because it is only together that we can we create a better world.”
On the relationship between the two countries, President Plevneliev said: “Bulgaria and Israel have a special bond, and history and the test of time have transformed that bond into a genuine friendship.”
When the appreciatory plaque was unveiled, the president was able to get an impression of the other leaders whose names appear beside his. “I know some of these guys,” he said with a broad smile.
Unveiling the appreciatory plaque with Menachem Leibovic. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The Bulgarian President came with his entourage to the planting ceremony directly after his visit to Yad VaShem, which perpetuates the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman Menachem Leibovic mentioned this fact in his speech:
“You represent the entire Bulgarian nation, whom we, the Jewish People, thank for having saved Jews at the time of the Holocaust. It is an honor to stand at your side as you plant a tree below Yad VaShem,” he told President Plevneliev.
Leibowitz told those present that there is plenty of scope for cooperation between Bulgaria and Israel, and added: “I know that Bulgaria is a beautiful country with many superb forests, and I’m sure we have a great deal to learn from you.”
Menachem Leibovic presents the Bulgarian President with a KKL-JNF Planting Certificate.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Nor did he forget to thank President Plevneliev for the help his country had extended to Israel during the fire on Mount Carmel
. “You were among the first countries to come to our aid, and you sent no fewer than ninety-two firemen to help us fight that huge fire,” he said.
Yana Marcus of KKL-JNF's European Desk
presided over the ceremony and explained to the visitors that the organization was founded 110 years ago
by people who had a vision. “Since then we have planted trees, built reservoirs and established communities,” she informed them.
All ceremony participants. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Diplomatic relations apart, the President of Bulgaria also has a personal connection with Israel, as he was born on May 14th, the same day as the Zionist State; at forty-eight years old, however, the president is considerably the younger of the two. And now he has a new link to the country, in the form of the olive tree he planted in its soil with his own two hands.
“You’ll have to come back here every year to irrigate it,” joked KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman Leibovic as the Bulgarian president emptied the watering can into the hole he had planted the tree in. But the president was ready with a quick reply: “You’re such an advanced country technologically – can’t you irrigate the trees by remote control?” he inquired.
Grove of Nations. Photo: Yoav Devir
And so the two sides took their leave of each other with smiles and embraces. The amicable relationship between Israel and Bulgaria would now appear to include a personal friendship between the representatives of the two countries.