WJC, LAJC delegation visit Guatemala City: “Guatemala is among the strongest and most devoted friends of Jews and Israel in the world”

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA - World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer led a delegation of WJC and Latin American Jewish Congress officials this week for meetings in Guatemala with the leadership of the local Jewish community, members of the Guatemalan congress, senior government officials, and leaders of the Evangelical church in that country. 

“Guatemala is undoubtedly among the strongest and most devoted friends of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in the world, particularly in Latin America,” said Singer. “The people and the government of Guatemala see the small, but strong, Jewish community in the country as an integral part of its diverse national fabric. Having spent several days with the community and senior members of the country’s leadership, I leave with deeply positive feelings and optimism that the warmth toward the Jewish community and the strong bilateral ties with Israel will continue to yield mutually beneficial results for both of our peoples.”

Over the course of his visit, Singer discussed with the various parties issues including Guatemala’s bilateral relations with the State of Israel and the recent move of the its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Singer began his visit to Guatemala on Sunday with a visit to the Jewish community center in Guatemala City, where he met with the community president Yehudi Sabbagh and leaders of the community’s various committees and partner organizations. The community center, which serves the 700-member community, is home to the Ashkenazi synagogue, kosher market, and pre-school, among other facilities.

In meetings on Tuesday in Guatemala City with members of the Guatemala-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group Juan Manuel Diaz Duran, Marcos Yax, and Fidel Reyes Lee, Foreign Minister Sandra Erica Jovel Polanco and Minister of Government Enrique Antonio Degenhart Asturias, Singer expressed appreciation on behalf of world Jewry for the decision to move Guatemala’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Jerusalem. Singer also noted the long history of positive and friendly relations between Guatemala and Israel and expressed support for building upon the already strong foundations. Guatemala is the second country, after the United States, to relocate its main diplomatic mission in Israel.

During Singer’s meeting with the ministers, attended together with community president Yehudi Sabbagh, the two parties agreed to ensuring that an open line of communication would be establishment between the community and the government. The WJC CEO also expressed his commitment to assisting in fostering connections between key figures within the Guatemalan government and their counterparts in the international community, with the goal of creating a prosperous and open society. Additionally, Singer urged the ministers to work toward pushing for Hezbollah to be listed as a terror organization by the Organization of American States.

Singer also met Tuesday evening with members of the Guatemalan Jewish community’s young leadership, addressing the challenges facing the future generations of the small Central American community. The community today numbers only in the hundreds and is dwindling as young members leave the country for more prosperous economic and family opportunities elsewhere in Latin America, as well in the United States and Israel. In discussing these challenges through his visit, Singer offered to support the community.

In separate meetings in Guatemala City, Singer also met with a dozen key Evangelical leaders including Pastors Jorge H. Lopez, Dr. Fernando Solares, and Giovanni Marroquin. More than 40 percent of Guatemalans identify with the Evangelical church, a number that is quickly rising. The Evangelical community is a driving force behind Guatemala’s strong ties with the State of Israel, viewing the land as the spiritual center and birthplace of both the Jewish and Christian faiths.

Israel and Guatemala maintain full diplomatic ties. Guatemala played an important role in the 1947 United Nations vote that recognized the State of Israel and has recognized the country since its establishment in 1948. The Guatemala ambassador to the UN at the time, Jorge Garcia Granados, was a member of the UN Special Committee on Palestine and lobbied for votes on behalf of the Jewish state. Guatemala was among the first countries to recognize Israel, bringing other Latin American countries to follow.

Photo, from left: LAJC Director of Strategic Partnerships Veronica Machtey, President of the Jewish Community of Guatemala Yehudi Sabbagh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala Sandra Jovel, Minister of Government of Guatemala Enrique Antonio Degenhart Asturias, WJC CEO Robert Singer, José Garces

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