Shmuley Boteach: Rwanda to open an embassy in Israel

Shmuley Boteach: Rwanda to open an embassy in Israel

Prominent rabbi says plan confirmed by Israel's UN envoy, though Foreign Ministry says it knows of no such move

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (photo credit: Courtesy)

The central African state of Rwanda will open an embassy in Israel, according to a prominent US rabbi who says an announcement to this effect was made by Rwanda’s foreign minister last week.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who is mostly known for his controversial books and is now running for Congress, met Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo a few weeks ago and discussed that they strengthen their country’s ties with Israel. Last week, Boteach met Mushikiwabo again in the US. Mushikiwabo reportedly “thanked Rabbi Shmuley for the role he played, because Rwanda now plans to open an embassy in Israel within the next six months.”

“Having witnessed firsthand the pain and the rebirth of the Rwandan people this summer, I was incredibly inspired by their warmth and their ability to come together as a unit in times of hardship, much in the way that the Jewish people have done for centuries,” Boteach said. “I whole-heartedly back President Kagame’s decision to open an embassy in Israel, and I am confident that it will foster even stronger relations between our people for decades to come.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, however, was taken by surprise by the announcement.

“We have no indication that Rwanda is intending to open an embassy in Israel,” ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel. “Relations between the two countries are indeed good and warm, but we have had no communication regarding an embassy.”

But Boteach said the Rwandan government’s announcement was made publicly in front of journalists and said Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, told him that Rwanda would indeed open a new embassy in Israel.

A prolific author and TV show host, Boteach, 45, is best known for tackling controversial topics in his books, such as “Kosher Sex” and most recently “Kosher Jesus.” After winning the Republican primaries for New Jersey’s 9th Congressional district, he is running for a seat in the US House of Representatives in the upcoming election.

Rwanda, a largely Christian nation of 12 million, has traditionally had good relations with Israel but has not opened a permanent mission. In 2008, Kagame visited Israel for the country’s 60th birthday. This past Thursday, Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Rwanda, Belaynesh Zevadia, presented her credentials to President Kagame.

“We share a lot in common with Rwanda and have gone through similar tragic events — the Holocaust and the genocide against the Tutsi,” Zevadia said, referring to the 1994 mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis at the hand of the Hutu majority. “This relationship has enabled us to share best practices on reconciliation and peace building. I am now looking forward to joint strategies in fostering education and agricultural advancement in Rwanda,” Zevadia said.

Also last week, Rwanda was voted into the United Nations Security Council as a rotating, non-permanent member.

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