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|Amikam Levy, Israel's Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau - 'getting the job done'.|
Amikam Levy arrived in Hong Kong to take up the post of Consul General of Israel in HKSAR and Macau SAR in September 2008. From 2003 to 2008 he was Head of Regional Administration office for Asia and Africa, titled Ambassador at the Ministry and from 2001 to 2003 he was Ambassador of Israel to Vietnam and Laos. He has spent 35 years in the Foreign Ministry - after leaving the IDF where he reached the rank of Deputy Commander.
He now commands a consulate in this important gateway to mainland China, with a staff of 119, in this tiny place. Amikam Levy speaks highly of Hong Kong, telling that as a place to effect his duties life is just a lot lighter than he has experienced elsewhere.
You wake up in the morning as the head of office in Hong Kong and you want to do something, well you can, you can do it easily, because the environment, because of the facilities, because of the energy here and because of the concept [one country two systems] and mainly because this model works.
The citizens respect the government a lot and the government respects the citizens. At the end of the day the result is a very efficient machine, because it's an international hub and a unique place.
You can really go ahead over a wide range of issues of economy, trade, culture - not politics because this place behaves like an independent country except for two issues, security and foreign relations.
In the Foreign Ministry we work to a yearly plan, together with the head office with timetables, noting all the potential obstacles, the barriers such as human resources limitations, we consider the timing and the possibilities.
Looking back and starting from this November: in the middle of November the secretary of environment Mr Edward Yau Tang-wah will pay an official visit to the State of Israel. He will participate in the WATEC exhibition dealing the environmental technologies, alternative energies, and we have finalised his programme. He will visit the Deputy Foreign Minister, he will visit leaders from the economic sector in Israel, also four leading companies concerned with environmental technologies and he will participate in a very professional panel at the Trade Ministry.
He will meet the electric car and charging station system founder Shai Agassi, who is mounting an effort to make electric cars part of ordinary life in Israel over the next decade. Mr Agassi's organisation is called Project Better Place, and this inventor will try to build 500,000 electric charging stations in the country where attendants will swap out depleted batteries and put in fully charged ones.
Agassi is an Israeli and the bulk of the company's US$200 million in funds comes from investors in Israel. The idea is that the scheme will come to Hong Kong before anywhere else. Edward Yau will meet people from the academic world. He will meet three ministers: of the environment, the Foreign Minister for Justice, also the Deputy Foreign Minister - who is also the president of the biggest company in Israel dealing with environmental technology.
The framework of the visit is to cover the environmental issues connected with water, energy, and clean technologies.
Parallel to that visit we will have the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) visiting Israel. A very senior government official will lead that delegation as fits such a professional trade body and they will participate in WATEC as well.
In between all this, Ambassador Reuven Merhav, former Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and first Israeli Consul General to Hong Kong, will come here. He will give a talk to the community and the Israeli Chamber of Commerce. In the Chamber he will speak of the economy and at the Jewish Community Centre.
On 18 October this year we succeeded in sending to Israel Paul Chan the chief editor of the Ming Pao, the first time in ten years that a journalist of his rank will visit from Hong Kong.
Ming Pao was selected as the most credible Chinese language newspaper as it aims at providing comprehensive and accurate reports on political and economic issues in Hong Kong and mainland China. The Ming Pao is read in China so for us this is an important newspaper.
Paul Chan visited Israel for a week and we provided all the expenses. He met leaders from the Foreign Ministry, from the media at the same level. He saw for himself the south and the north and the Dead Sea area where he could relax. He participated in a presidential conference at the 22 October. He now knows about the situation in Israel on the ground.
Other activities lately completed include a promotion of Dead Sea products - the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth 427 metres below sea level, it is a most interesting place and I want to let the Chinese know about it. Five companies provided the contents of that exhibition and over 80 local companies and individuals took part. There was a lecture on the Dead Sea and it was clear that a lot of business was being discussed.
Before that we had a special event in co-operation with the Israeli Chamber of Commerce where we managed to create a Jewish Food Festival. This was a first of its kind for us. The Under Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, was our guest of honour and cut the ribbon.
This proved to be a great platform for Israeli foods where our Chabad, our Chamber, and our consulate co-operated.
There are six communities in all across this territory, four on the Island and two on the Kowloon side. We have a local Jewish population of about 2,500 in Hong Kong.
The festival aimed to introduce Israeli food and culture to the local Chinese and the international community and for the benefit of the Jewish community.
Another activity that is important and that we are working hard to finalise is a cultural Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Hong Kong and Israel where we declare together our will to co-operate government to government on cultural events. I consider cultural activities high priority as well as the economic and political activities. You cannot say this is the first and this is the second because all these are important.
This is about communication with the government, with the Jewish community.
The reason for our being here is to communicate about economic, political, and cultural matters. It is a privilege to see these matters progress in all these areas. We are agreed in principle, it's just the legal advice and checking drafts now. Soon there will be an official signing ceremony.
In another sphere in the relations between the Israeli and Hong Kong governments we have an agreement on IT and high technology. We have yet to finalise the agreement details on customs and on double taxation.
This November the Chief Information Officer, government of Hong Kong, will go to Israel on behalf of Invest Hong Kong which is a powerful firm headed by Simon Galpin which has a branch in Israel as one of 27 branches across the world. This marks another milestone in the relations between Hong Kong and Israel.
On my trips to and around Macau two aspects of potential business struck me following my observations of certain lacks which lie in the areas of education and medicine.
Now that a calm has come into Israel life I have initiated activities with El Al to promote tourism to Israel. We have held two lunches and briefings and we are informing the travel industry of this new calm - it has not been like this for years. After the Gaza operation the south is quiet. Lebanon is quiet. There is a new government in charge.
(Issue November 2009)