GREEK ISRAELI RELATIONS – CHANGES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

I am sitting on the porch of the Cafein in the upscale community of Haifa in Israel known as Horev It is named after the mount where Moses received the ten commandments. In this area there is a small canyon or mall, several cafes and middle class homes. This community has a mixed population of Jewish, Christian and Muslims. I am eating Moussaka, drinking Arak a local variation of Greek Ouzo, and watching the pedestrians pass by which is my favorite afternoon pleasure except for the Shabat or Sabbath of course. I can see the namal or port where many of the workers trace their roots back for centuries to Salonika.
There is a lot of news currently about the changing relations between Israel and Greece, including the tripartite agreement between Israel, Greece and Cyprus. I decided to learn more about the history of the relationship between Judaic and Hellenic culture. We are one week away from Passover and I am surprised to find how amazingly the relationship between the 2 cultures has endured over the centuries. The Hellenic influence began in 332 BCE when Alexander the greatconcurred the world including much of this region. The two cultures at times clashed but ofter shared values. Many of the ancient Hebrews took Greek names, wore togas, and even the tallit was influenced by the Greek pissim or stripe. The Jewish Sanhedrin or higher court has a Greek morphology. During the Passover Sedar Jews are expected to lean rather than sit upright similar to ancient Greek aristocracy. The word afikoman is also a Greek word.
The Hellenic influence also extended to included Christianity. In Jerusalem, The Greek Altar of Calvary, Church of the Holy Sepulchre is widely considered the holiest site in Christianity. The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is an Autocephalous Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Orthodox Christianity and it is headed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem
The nature of modern ties between the two countries were rekindled on the rebirth of modern Israel in 1948. Along with Cuba, Greece was one of only two Christian-majority nations to vote against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Following the signing of armistice agreements confirming Israel’s survival in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Greece recognized the State of Israel on 15 March 1949, although it was diplomatically represented in Tel Aviv on lower-than-embassy level. For many years Greece was seen as very pro-Palestinian.
Since May 1991, however, relations between the two countries have been upgraded from Diplomatic Representation to Embassy level. Whilst relations between the two countries have been less warm in the late 20th century, since 2008 they have become the strongest relations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Greece consider each other as strong collaborator in the aspects of military intelligence, economy and culture. Both countries are part of the Energy Triangle which referred to the extraction of oil and gas from both Israel and Cyprus, these supplies being delivered to mainland Europe with a pipeline through Greece. Israel-Greece relations have been heavily influenced by the relation between Israel and Turkey. Haifa is the center of Israel’s energy industry and largest port. It is guesstimated that as much as thirty trillion dollars of energy could betraded in the future.
The joint Cyprus-Israel oil and gas explorations centered on the Leviathan gas field just west of Haifa is an important factor for Greece, given its strong links with Cyprus, the third member of the tripartite. The Greeks are looking to expand their economy with the western nations and see Israel as a conduit to this goal.

So what lies ahead? Greece sees Israel as a reliable secure source of energy in the years ahead in a turbulent region of the world. Israel sees Greece as a gateway to trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. May the relationship prosper.

This week is was announced that Israel and Turkey are moving closer to cooperation between the two nations. Turkey has a strong interest in Israels offshore energy supplies which will reduce Turkeys dependency on Russia for its energy needs. Israels Prime Minister has expressed confidence that an agreement will be in place within 60 days.

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