Israel’s Heartfelt Contribution: 65 Years of Empowering Africa

In 1958, Golda Meir, Israel’s visionary Foreign Minister, embarked on a journey to western Africa. Her eyes saw beyond the immediate challenges, recognizing the ethical and diplomatic potential in supporting Africa’s ascent in areas like food security, healthcare, education, and more. With the blessing of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Israel – a young nation barely 10 years old – showcased its tenacity and desire to make a difference by founding MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.

What drove the inception of MASHAV? MASHAV’s Director, Eynat Shlein, puts it succinctly: “Golda and Ben-Gurion believed that Israel, even in its nascent state, had a wealth of expertise and knowledge to offer emerging African nations of that era.” Remarkably, while still developing, Israel decided to help others develop.

The core mission of MASHAV? To embrace the timeless Jewish principle of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and sow seeds of goodwill. Shlein emphasizes, “MASHAV isn’t about economic benefits for Israel, but about enabling growth in developing nations. Sharing our innovations, practices, and techniques is our primary goal.”

Over the years, the doors opened by MASHAV have facilitated many Israeli companies in their philanthropic endeavors. Notable ventures include Netafim’s sustainable farming initiative in Rwanda and Gigawatt Global’s renewable energy projects in Zambia. Pears Challenge has also been instrumental, in empowering Israeli startups to create solutions addressing global challenges, like enhancing financial service accessibility in East Africa.

Today, MASHAV’s influence is felt across the 43 African countries that share diplomatic ties with Israel. Moreover, they provide development aid to nearly 100 other nations. From hospital missions in Ethiopia and Uganda to educational endeavors in Kenya, Israel’s outreach spans a broad spectrum.

MASHAV’s commitment goes beyond immediate aid. They’ve built essential infrastructure in the continent, such as hospitals and neonatal clinics. But their real success? Investing in capacity building. This ensures that the projects initiated are sustainable and can eventually be managed by the local communities, truly reflecting the principle of ‘teaching a man to fish.’

A testament to their success is the 350,000 individuals from Africa and beyond who have graduated from MASHAV’s varied training programs, spread across centers specializing in gender equality, agriculture, education, and more.

As we reflect on the past 65 years, MASHAV’s legacy continues to inspire new initiatives. One such initiative is the African Sustainable Communities master’s program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which offers advanced strategies for sustainability in arid regions. Most students in this program hail from Africa, and their projects encompass renewable energy, financial literacy, and more.

Highlighting the program’s impact, Prof. Lynn Schler mentions, “These students enrich the BGU community with their experiences, ensuring we stay connected and informed.”

In conclusion, Israel’s endeavors in Africa underscore a profound truth about the Jewish state: despite its challenges, Israel remains a beacon of hope, knowledge, and innovation. With a history steeped in resilience and a spirit of unity, Israel not only advances its own growth but earnestly seeks to uplift others. This story of cooperation and genuine goodwill is a shining example of what Israel represents at its core – a nation with a heart as vast as its history.

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