The Consulates General of Azerbaijan and Israel held a joint event on June 12, 2017 in Los Angeles to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. The event was hosted by the Sinai Temple, which is one of the largest and most influential synagogues not only in Los Angeles, but also in the entire U.S.. Attended by over 300 guests, including consuls general of various countries, elected officials, representatives of different ethnic and religious communities, journalists and others, the celebration included a discussion between Azerbaijan’s Consul General Nasimi Aghayev and Israel’s Consul General Sam Grundwerg. The discussion was moderated by Daniel Schnur, the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles Office.
The event opened with an impressive performance of national anthems of Azerbaijan, Israel and the U.S. by Sinai Temple’s senior cantor Marcus Feldman. Speaking afterwards, Rabbi David Wolpe of the Sinai Temple recalled the 2015 trip of 45 members of his congregation to Azerbaijan, noting that the journey offered the opportunity to learn more about Azerbaijan’s model of interfaith tolerance and harmony up close. He stressed that walking in the streets of Baku freely with a Jewish headgear (kippah) and seeing nothing but respect was a beautiful experience, especially in a majority-Muslim nation. Rabbi Wolpe noted that celebrating the Azerbaijan-Israel relations was important also in terms of showcasing the possibility of peace between Muslims and Jews.
Then Consul General of Azerbaijan Nasimi Aghayev and Consul General of Israel Sam Grundwerg addressed the audience. In his remarks, Consul General Aghayev informed the attendees about Azerbaijan’s long-standing traditions of tolerance, inclusion and multiculturalism. Noting the centuries-long peaceful co-existence of Azerbaijani Muslims and Jews, Consul General Aghayev said that these bonds between the two peoples provided a strong foundation for the emergence of close friendship and partnership between Azerbaijan and Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union when Azerbaijan restored its independence. Speaking about the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Consul General Aghayev emphasized appreciation for Israel’s unwaivering support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. In this regard, Aghayev also expressed gratitude for Israeli President Rivlin’s special reference to the 1992 Khojaly Massacre – committed by Armenia against Azerbaijani civilians – in his 2015 U.N. speech on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Aghayev noted that this was another indicator of a genuine friendship between the two countries.
In his remarks, Consul General of Israel Sam Grundwerg called the environment of interfaith tolerance and harmony in Azerbaijan a great model and example. He also highlighted the strategic nature of Azerbaijani-Israeli partnership, encompassing many crucial areas. Recalling the high-level bilateral visits, Consul General Grundwerg expressed his satisfaction with the current level of Azerbaijan-Israel strategic partnership as well as with the remarkable achievements Azerbaijan has been able to make as a free and independent nation. Touching on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Grundwerg noted that Israel supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan as well as the peaceful resolution of the conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.
The discussion was followed by a lively Q&A session, during which the Consuls General were asked various questions.
The event concluded with the performance of Azerbaijani and Jewish music by talented musicians of both nations, which left the audience mesmerized.
Highlights from the event can be watched here: https://youtu.be/KFojsvVHGio
The performance of the Azerbaijani national anthem by Cantor Feldman can be watched here: https://youtu.be/knmVmgxU8zE