JERUSALEM (Jan. 15)
President Chaim Herzog will leave for Zaire on Tuesday where he will spend five days and then go on to Liberia for a twoday visit. This is the first visit to Africa by an Israeli President since the African nations severed diplomatic relations with the Jewish State after the Yom Kippur War.
Herzog was invited to Zaire by President Mobutu Sese Seko and to Liberia by President Samuel Doe. Both Presidents visited Israel last year, following the resumption of diplomatic ties with Israel.
One of the highlights of Herzog’s visit will be his meeting with the Jewish community of Zaire. There are presently some 150 Jewish families in Kinshasa, the capital, and in Lubumbashi. Most of them emigrated from Rhodes after the Italian conquest in 1912, either en route to South Africa or to settle in the then Belgian Congo. The families are said to be well off economically. A large and beautiful synagogue exists in Lubumbashi, with a rabbi heading the community.
Herzog will also tour the country, visiting, among other sites, joint Israeli and local ventures. Israel extends considerable aid to Zaire, especially in the areas of agriculture and health.
SYMBOLIZE ISRAEL’S RETURN
Although the visit is basically ceremonial, officials in Jerusalem view it as important, in that it symbolizes Israel’s return to Africa. Although contrary to expectations in Jerusalem, the resumption of diplomatic ties with Zaire and Liberia has not led to a chain reaction on the part of other Black African nations, Israeli involvement in the area is on the rise, especially by extending professional aid.
Israel now has full diplomatic relations with Lesoto, Malawi and Swaziland, in addition to Zaire and Liberia, with many interest officers in other African states.