Two Israeli diplomats who visited the world's largest Muslim country Indonesia this week, were surprised by the warm and friendly welcome they received.
Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Ministry Amos Nadai and Israeli Ambassador in Bangkok Yael Rubinstein arrived in the country's capital Jakarta to attend a convention organized by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Nadai and Rubinstein are the first official Israeli delegates to arrive in a Muslim country in five years.
"It was amazing to discover that wherever we toured, even in the less developed areas in Indonesia, we were greeted warmly and with smiles. People expressed much appreciation for Israel's abilities," Nadai said.
Despite the fact that Israel and Indonesia have no diplomatic relations, the two arrived to the capital Jakarta to attend the conference sponsored by the Bangkok-based ESCAP organization. Israel was invited to participate in the week-long event as an observer.
"There has been at least one incident in the past in which a Muslim country denied the right to host the conference, in order to evade inviting Israel," Nadai said. "Here we were greeted warmly and kindly. We were surprised to find out that many people from the private sector are familiar with Israel and appreciate us. We also talked to several doctors who attended conferences in Israel and they, too, were very enthusiastic. I hope and believe that we made good contacts during the conference," Nadai added.
Relations between Indonesia and Israel have had its ups and downs over the last years. Between the years 1998-2000 ties warmed up and an official delegations from Israel visited Indonesia. However, after the intifada broke out in 2000, relations between the countries cooled.
"As far as we're concerned, Indonesia is a progressive and tolerant Muslim country and this is very important for us. If a country like Indonesia expresses itself positively over processes taking place in our region – this could have a significant influence", Nadai concluded.