By Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon – Reprinted from the Huffington Post
When Israel was reestablished almost 63 years ago, it adopted the ancient Jewish precept of Tikkun Olam as part of its national philosophy. This term, literally meaning "repairing the world" is an ancient Jewish value of reaching out to those in need and a social instruction to better our surroundings and society.
During its formative years, Israel faced enormous development challenges, including difficult climactic challenges, including water scarcity and the absorption of massive waves of immigrants. Israel in 2010 joined the OECD as a sign of successfully meeting those challenges and moving from a developing to a developed nation.
Israel’s seminal ethos was "making the desert bloom" and its first leaders understood that their experience could be replicated in other regions dealing with the challenges of desertification, agriculture in arid conditions and water management.
The Jewish State was one of the first in the world to establish a development agency, MASHAV, Israel’s Center for International Development Cooperation. MASHAV was created at the initiative of Golda Meir, Israel’s first woman prime minister, after returning from her historic visit in 1958 to the newly created countries in Africa.
Meir felt that Israel had a moral obligation to share its experience in nation-building with others. She felt that Israel could be a role model because, in her words, only a few years after the founding of our state, it "had shaken off foreign rule, and had been forced to find solutions to the kinds of problems that large, wealthy, powerful states had never encountered."
For the next decade Israel was invited to support development programs in African nation-building, in the fields of agriculture, health and community development. This ended in 1967 when African nations were forced to sever relations with Israel by the Arab and Muslim bloc which held an automatic majority in the developing world.
Over the subsequent decades MASHAV did not stand idle and built a reputation in other regions like Latin America, Asia and in Arab nations that signed peace agreements with Israel, like Egypt and Jordan. MASHAV has also assisted our Palestinian neighbors with a focus on human capacity building and institution building.
However, according to the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2000, Africa remains a continent in need of partnership.
The MDGs represent our common humanity, a global partnership for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, to ensure universal primary education, access to health services, gender equality and provide more to millions across the world.
Since its inception, MASHAV’s work in the developing world has been guided by the basic approach that development work is organic in nature. Israel is committed to do its utmost to achieve the MDG’s for the benefit of the billions who desperately need our sustained collective effort.
To this end, the State of Israel has signed agreements regarding cooperation in aiding developing nations, with emphasis on matters of water, agriculture and health, with many nations.
Israel is partnering with the United States in Ethiopia, with Germany in Ethiopia and Ghana, with Italy in Senegal, Japan and Denmark in the Middle East and we are hoping to sign an agreement with Canada in the near future to assist development in Asia.
Only last week, Israel and Germany signed a Declaration of Intent to plan a joint program in the vital Lake Victoria region of Kenya to improve the ecosystem there for the benefit of the entire area, including Uganda and Tanzania.
Israel, having joined the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) late last year, has a moral commitment to assist the developing world. The Jewish State is hoping to sign many more bilateral development agreements with partner nations in the developed world.
These agreements represent the Jewish State’s willingness to extend a hand and cooperate around the world for the benefit of developing countries. This sends a clear and moral message to the people of the world that Israel remains faithful to both its Jewish and universal value system.