“The existence of the State of Israel is of Utmost importance. It provides a strong and renewed meaning to being Jewish and invigorates Jewish identity, both in the personal and communal levels.”
The Interviewee – Professor Marcos Peckel. Executive Director of the Jewish Confederation of Colombia (umbrella organization of Colombian Jewry).
Born in Bogota in 1956, to Jewish German Parents. Grand parents killed in Auscwitz. Graduate from the Technion, master degrees in McGill, Montreal. I am professor in international relations at a local university and adviser on Middle East issues to the ministry of foreign affairs of Colombia. Newspaper columnist on international affairs (El Espectador, El País) and as mentioned above executive director the Jewish federation and vice president of the World Jewish Congress.
In your opinion, what importance, if any, does the existence of a Jewish state has to you personally and to Jewish people in general?
“The existence of the State of Israel is of Utmost importance. It provides a strong and renewed meaning to being Jewish and invigorates Jewish identity, both in the personal and communal levels. I can not imagine Judaism today without the State of Israel.”
Do you feel committed in some way to defend the future existence of Israel?
“Wholly committed and words and deeds. We strongly support and defend the State of Israel in all manners a means at our disposal.”
Do you feel morally responsible for Israel’s actions (such as its management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)?
“Yes I do. And we as community do as well. That is because being a democracy and a law abiding State, Israel has always, in very difficult circumstances, upheld international law. When there is a deviation the judiciary in Israel will look into matters.”
In your opinion, what is the main thing Israelis fail to understand about the reality of being Jewish outside of Israel?
“How any action taken by the State of Israel affects the Jewish People. Today it’s impossible to separate Israel from the Jewish Communities. What happens in Israel affects the Jewish communities specially with regards to the conflict with the Palestinians. This is unavoidable and I personally don´t mind because this is what we are. The communicating vessels between Israel and the Jewish communities are growing stronger every time.
“During last year Gaza Operation there were all sorts of anti-Semitic events in social networks and others (fortunately no violent incidents occurred), in a country like ours where antisemitism is quite low. We just have to live with that. Israel has to do what it has to do to defend itself and we stand with Israel whatever the consequences.
“Also the need for Israel to accept non-orthodox views on religious matters, including the thorny issue of conventions.”
How would you describe Israel’s policy (formally and in practice) regarding its relationship with the Diaspora?
“I think it has vastly improved lately. Myself coming from Latin America we have seen neglect in the past by Israel to the importance of this regions which fortunately is being mended.”
In your opinion, does Israel have an obligation to defend and help Jewish communities in need?
“YES. Unqualified YES.”
Have you ever been to Israel?
“Many many times.”
If an Israeli tourist should ever come across your hometown, which experience should he/she not miss?
“Cartagena, San Agustin, Zona Cafetera (coffee growing area), Leticia (amazon river), Barichara, Popayan and many other.”