RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — The presidents of Israel and Costa Rica, both Nobel Peace Prize winners, celebrated together the anniversary of the partition of Palestine.
Shimon Peres hosted Oscar Arias at a Nov. 29 luncheon in Jerusalem to mark the 62nd anniversary of United Nations Resolution 181. Peres described his Central American counterpart as "a personal friend and a man of peace."
Costa Rica was one of the 33 countries that voted "yes" in 1947, and less than a year later, in 1948, was among the first countries to recognize the nascent State of Israel. Until 2006, Costa Rica was one of only two countries, along with El Salvador, that maintained an embassy in Jerusalem, but both eventually yielded to political pressures and joined the other countries that maintain embassies on Israel’s coastal plain.
Arias was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1987 in recognition of his work for peace in Central America. Peres, with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, won the Nobel Prize in 1994 in recognition of concluding and following up the Oslo Accords. Both leaders also have authored several books,
Peres also commended Costa Rica for having an educational focus rather than a military force.
"The future does not depend on soldiers but on teachers," he added.
Arias planted an olive tree at the Grove of Nations overlooking Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem.
"I plant this tree to share the hope of my people in Costa Rica for the Middle East," he said. "We will energize its roots, we will dream of its branches, we will dream that the children playing in its shade know harmony and reap peace. It will be a tree of hope."
During the ceremony, Israel’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Ehud Eitan, and the Costa Rican minister of external relations, Bruno Stagno, read the planter’s prayer in Hebrew and Spanish.