The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, has just become the 1st sitting president of his country to visit Israel. He arrived with a 100-member delegation that will remain in country for two weeks to visit Israeli universities and innovative projects.
At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI), Lasso and his wife, First Lady Maria de Lourdes Alcivar, met the university’s president Prof. Asher Cohen and inaugurated Ecuador’s Office for Technology and Innovation, and held a business conference called “Ecuador Open for Business” to develop investments and public-private partnerships with key players in Israel’s ecosystem.
Ecuador has been a friend of Israel since before the establishment of the State. The South American nation was one of the 33 United Nations member states that voted in favor of the partition of Palestine on November 29, 1947, clearing the way for Israel’s independence the following year.
Lasso is a businessman, banker, writer and politician who has served as the 47th president of Ecuador since 24 May 2021. He is the country’s first center-right president in nearly two decades, marking a noted shift in the country’s electorate.
In 1999, he served as Superminister of Economy during the Jamil Mahuad presidency briefly in 1999. Before that, he was governor of Guayas. In 2003, he briefly served as the Itinerant Ambassador of Ecuador during the Lucio Gutiérrez administration.
Lasso also visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem where he was greeted by rabbi of the Wall and holy sites Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who joined him in reciting a chapter from Psalms for the welfare of Ecuador and of Israel.
The President of Ecuador said: “I came here to see the Jewish nation’s power and strength. I am very excited to be here, a place of connection between earth and God, we sense the holiness. I came to pray for peace in the world, for my family, and for my country. We are very connected with the State of Israel and happy to be here.”
The Keren Kayemet Leyisrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) hosted Lasso at a tree-planting ceremony at the Grove of Nations in the heart of the Jerusalem Forest – home to many trees planted by heads of states from all over the world, symbolizing peace, partnership and brotherhood.
He and the Ecuadorean First Lady, minister of foreign affairs Juan Carlos Holguin and minister of foreign trade Julio José Prado all received a special KKL-JNF certificate after planting a tree at the Grove of Nations, which since 2005 has been part of the “Olive Tree Route” – a section of the initiative led by UNESCO and the Council of Europe to establish an Olive Tree Route around the entire Mediterranean Basin expressing the common desire for peace and co-existence.
KKL-JNF deputy chairman Hernan Felman said: “The Republic of Ecuador and the State of Israel have been maintaining a warm, fruitful friendship, even before Israel gained independence. When Hitler rose to power in Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust began, Ecuador was one of the most prominent countries to open its gates to Jewish refugees. I’m hopeful that the president and his distinguished delegation’s visit will further strengthen this fraternal relationship. Despite the geographical distance and cultural differences, both countries keep a warm relationship and have a lot to offer to each other. The tree planted by the president will be marked by his name for future generations, to blossom in the city of Jerusalem and together with Jerusalem.”
Lasso concluded: “When I was a child, the names of the State of Israel and David Ben-Gurion were heard a lot at home. I grew up with 11 siblings, and my family cared for the State of Israel deeply. It’s a great honor to plant a tree in Israel as the president of the Republic of Ecuador. This is a significant occasion as this tree is a symbol of the friendship between the Ecuadorian people and the Israeli people.”