Welcomed into the room with the blasts of the shofar (ram’s horn) and thunderous applause, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Christian supporters of Israel in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday.
Netanyahu opened his speech asking the audience how many of them had been to visit Israel. When only a few raised their hands to answer in the affirmative, the prime minister responded with an open invitation to come to the Holy Land whether for a repeat trip or for the first time, to see all the wonderful historical sites “that you read about in the Bible.”
“I’m glad I have the opportunity – the privilege, really – of coming here, coming to Africa to meet you,” Netanyahu continued. “We have no better friends in the world. None,” he affirmed.
“[Israel] appreciates this friendship and we’re expanding it into the continent of Africa,” Netanyahu noted, referring to his Monday meeting with the leaders of seven eastern African countries. In attendance were Ugandan President Museveni, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, Zambian President Edgar Lungu and Tanzanian Foreign Minister Dr. Augustine Philip Mahiga.
Together with these leaders and the countries they represent, “Israel is coming back to Africa, Africa is coming back to Israel,” exclaimed Netanyahu.
Lauding the advances achieved by the Jewish state, Netanyahu animatedly told the crowd, ““We produce water. We’ve had a substantial decline in rainfall since the establishment of modern Israel. And our population has grown ten times and our GDP per capita has grown 40 times. We should have a big water problem but we don’t. We have a water surplus because we’ve developed ingenuity to overcome this.”
It is these advancements, said Netanyahu, which Israel wishes to share with the entirety of Africa. “We are eager to share all of this with [all of] our African friends,” he noted.
“We have a common heritage [which] we view as something that defines who we are and what we are,” said Netanyahu, proudly stating what it is that unites the people of Africa with those in Israel.
The Israeli leader also took the time to briefly address the persecution under which Christians in the Middle East are greatly suffering. But, said Netanyahu “there is one place in the Middle East where the Christian community is not only not shrinking. It’s thriving, and expanding, and it’s safe!”
“That place is Israel,” said Netanyahu excitedly. “You are welcome in Israel!”
Netanyahu’s address in Nairobi comes amid the prime minister’s four-day trip to Africa, which began on Monday. During his visit, which has been hailed as a landmark trip, Netanyahu has met with the leaders of several African countries, including Kenyan President Kenyatta, Ugandan President Museveni, and Rwandan President Kagame.
On Monday, Netanyahu attended a ceremony hosted in Uganda commemorating 40 years since Israel Defense Forces carried out Operation Thunderbolt to rescue 102 Israeli civilians whose plane was hijacked and rerouted to Entebbe. Despite the difficulty of the mission, only the IDF commander, Yoni Netanyahu, the prime minister’s brother, was killed during the operation.