When Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev announced excitedly that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez would be lighting a torch at Israel’s 70th anniversary celebration, some could have been excused for asking – with all due respect to Honduras – is this the best we could do?
What happened? Did we go through the list of countries starting with “A” and stop at “H” when we found someone who would be willing to attend?
Forget for a minute questions about Hernandez’s and Honduras’s human rights record. Honduras is also not exactly a significant world power.
Besides that, though it was one of only nine countries which voted alongside Israel against a UN resolution in December condemning the US for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it was not one of the 33 countries which voted for partition in November 1947. Rather it was one of six Latin American countries that abstained, as opposed to 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries that voted for the plan (only Cuba voted against).
So why Honduras?
According to an official in the Foreign Ministry, the thinking did not go like this: “Well if we can’t get Trump, Putin, Modi, Merkel or Macron, let’s settle for Hernandez.”
Rather, as part of the Independence Day “A tradition of innovation” theme, Mashav – the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation – was selected as one of the people or organizations to light one of the 12 torches at the central ceremony on the eve of the holiday.
When Mashav was selected, it was then decided that a representative from the organization would light the torch along with a graduate of one of its many programs. The idea was to have the Mashav graduate who has gone the farthest be that representative – so all eyes fell on Hernandez.
In 1992, Hernandez graduated form a Mashav program for young leaders. Of some 300,000 Mashav graduates from 140 countries, Hernandez is the only one who currently serves as the president of a country – and apparently, one of the perks of earning that distinction is to be a torchbearer at Israel’s 70th anniversary celebration.