«Jewish Observer»
July 2002
5762 Av

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Shmuel Katsev is the second secretary of Embassy of State of Israel to Ukraine, director of Israeli cultural center in Odessa.

- How many Israelis are there in Odessa?

- Judge by yourself: every week two planes and one ship arrive in Odessa making up, approximately, 200 people (considering today's lowered level of tourism).

- What about businessmen? Are there such Israelis in Odessa?

- First, there were some people who had left for Israel trying to somehow get established. They were making attempts to organize most fantastic projects in Ukraine on import-export or manufacture of iron, plastics and, in general, whatever you want... Naturally, far from everybody has succeeded but there were such attempts.

A year and a half ago one of the shipyards in Nikolaev jointly with Odessa built a ship of the "Dakkar" series on Israel's order. Unfortunately, due to the change of economic situation in Israel further construction was freezed, but one ship is already part of our Navy. There is a desire to continue this project.

Another example is a sea transport company "ZIM". Its general representation is located in Odessa; "ZIM" itself is one of the most active companies at the Odessa port. The company does not serve only the Israeli direction delivering goods around the whole world. After the events of September 11, 2001, when a flow of passengers from USA and Europe sharply reduced, Ukraine has become "country number two" for the air-company "El-Al", at times becoming "country number one". The second air-company - "Aerosvit" - can, on the whole, be called Ukrainian-Israeli since Israeli funds are allocated into it. Take any region and any direction... There can be found an airport managed by an Israeli, a central department store belonging to an Israeli, hotels being built by our citizens.

- Does this concern Odessa, too?

- No, I speak about regions. To my mind, there exists a certain apprehension in Israel: how can we dare to go to Odessa to teach its residents to do business?

- Still, are there any concrete initiatives in Odessa?

- At present there are contacts between the Israeli aviation industry and Odessa's air structures. I can also mention daily consumer goods - soft drinks and juice, detergents. We are also developing, with the assistance of Odessa's municipality, company "Aerosvit", tour agency "Londonskaya" and hotel "Kempinsky", a promotion-tour to tell Israelis about today's Odessa... There is already a European-level service here, and the moment customs' procedures get simplified, points of consular service appear at airports and visas cease being fabulously expensive people will start arriving here. By the way, we are implementing the project "Israel - to great Odessa". An official of our MFA who recently was here has joked Odessa should place a monument to the Israeli cultural center since the latter has much contributed to the creation of a tourist route interesting, in the first turn, to Israelis.

- What is it "Israel - to great Odessa"?

- This is a form of our gratitude to all those who lived, worked, probably, even absorbed Odessa, and then left for Israel. We have opened plaques to Shimon Dubnov, Leon Pinsker, Meir Dizengof, Haim-Nakhman Byalik, the next will go to Ahad ha-Am. And I must say the government of Israel opens plaques on the territory of another state for the first ever time. The city administration issues permission on establishing a plaque namely to the State of Israel.

- What about Odessa residents in Israel? Is there a response like "Odessa - to great Israel"?

- Speaking about Odessa residents in Israel I can't fail to mention Yakov Maniovich. I don't know whether they know it in Odessa, but it was a discovery for me personally that in memorable 1970s a former Odessa resident Maniovich was the first and only lawyer authorized to represent interests of Israelis on the territory of the USSR. Just picture this - he, an immigrant and "traitor of the socialist Motherland", was accredited at the Bar of USSR! Or let's take the Odessa bank "Pivdenny", which is well-known in our country. Leadership of the bank constantly underlines its warm attitude to Israel. Odessa residents are quite noticeable in our country. In general, Israel is now home to a new community, such "Russian Israelis". The Russian subculture is very strong in Israel now.

- Tell, please, are there places in Odessa resembling Israel?

- Spirit. It is in every building; in every inhabitant of Odessa. I've worked in Novosibirsk and Dnepropetrovsk, so I can compare and I say: Odessa residents are a particular separate nationality. You can accept it or not, you can laugh at it, but this is a particular nationality proud of its origin. Even leaving somewhere, they do not forget about their city. I was born in Jerusalem, and I am not used to having their desire to begin any talk, no matter what it is about, with a few words "on Odessa" and how they like it.

Interview by Boleslav Kopulkin

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