Ties between Israel and Swaziland were strengthened last week when Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg presented his credentials to King Mswati III at his official palace. The ambassador was accompanied by Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, spiritual leader of the African Jewish Congress. Also in attendance at the ceremony, which at the king’s request continued well beyond the time allocated, were the Swazi prime minister and foreign minister as well as Geoff Ramakgadi, a local businessman who for many years has helped coordinate the affairs of the country’s small Jewish community.
Israel maintained an embassy in Swaziland until 1999. Today, Israel’s envoy to South Africa is also accredited to Swaziland and Lesotho. King Mswati lauded Israel’s ventures in his country over the years, including in the agricultural field and in running eye clinics. He was happy to accept an invitation to pay a formal visit to Israel in the future. The foreign minister shared his memories of studying at the Galilee College. A touch of local culture was added by the presence of a praise singer who rendered an enthusiastic endorsement of every comment relating to Israel’s friendship with and contribution to Swaziland.
During his visit, Segev-Steinberg and Silberhaft addressed a communal meeting attended by some forty people, roughly evenly divided between Jewish community, including may Israeli businesspeople, and Christian friends of Israel. The latter included a sister of the king whose husband, a priest, twice a year takes groups of pilgrims on religious tours to Israel.
Jews in Swaziland, who include a number of Israelis, are involved in various industries, including meat and candle-making. Rabbi Silberhaft inspected the two Jewish cemeteries and also visited a private school which Ramakgadi has established.