I’m sure, Igbo are Descendants of the Jews
He may not be a genealogist, but Noam Katz, Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, strongly believes that there are some common cultures and customs that bond the Igbo with Israel. He also identified with the belief that Igbo are descendants of the Jews. Katz told Sunday Sun in Abuja:”I’m aware and sure that we have unique traditions, culture and strong bonds that link us to the Igbo people. It has been proved that these unique bonds are helping in creating ties between us. There are some traditions that the two peoples have in common. I was told by some Igbo friends about common cultures and customs that we have together, some linguistic connections between Hebrew and Igbo.” Katz started his education in Jerusalem after his military services as required in Israel for every citizen to serve in the Army. He rose to the rank of Major, went to the university and became a teacher in a high school. He later joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and started as a cadet. So far he has been to Nigeria twice.
Forty-year-old envoy who is in Nigeria for the second time can hardly hide his love for the country: “I love Nigeria. I am very happy to be here in Nigeria. Nigeria was the first country that I served abroad. It’s like first love, you know you never forget your first love. I found the people of Nigeria very warm, cordial and friendly with a great sense of humour.” Reflecting on his first time in Nigeria, Katz said a lot has changed: “The political atmosphere is different. There is no longer military dictatorship. This has brought Nigeria back to the family of democratic nations. It has brought Nigeria back to its right position in the international arena and specifically, Africa.” While advising Nigerians to take full advantage of of the new order, the envoy said: “Nigerians should work hard for the success of democracy and for the success of the Nigerian economy, for the welfare of the Nigerian people and also for the integration of Nigeria as a leading country in the world.”
On his country’s relation with Nigeria, Katz observes: “We started diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then we can see a lot of progress which are beneficial to both sides. We have sent thousands of Nigeria to be trained in Israel in specific areas where we have advantages. We do programmes here in Nigeria in agriculture, medicine, human enterprises, human development, education and many others. There are more than 50 Israeli companies in Nigeria, in constructions, communications, agriculture and many other fields.
“We recently had a very intensive programme in Minna, where we did dairy cattle course and seminar for people. The idea was to train Nigerians on the most sophisticated updated technologies and methods. We are also considering medical project in some states. “We have just concluded a working visit in Abia State which was to explore areas of possible corporation. And it has some very positive results which I hope we will be able to promote later in the year.”
“Unfortunately, we are living in a world where the threat of terrorism has become a major factor. We are trying our best to keep our security like any other country in the world. At the same time, we hope that people will understand that and be patient with some of these measures that we take. “Half of Israel’s casualties are from suicide bombers. These explode so indiscriminately in the cities, slaughtering men, children and women in public places like bus-stops, coffee shops, markets and malls. It is a state problem that our government is committed to providing security for our people. We regard these security measures as necessary. We believe that the real architect of this thing is not the State of Israel, but Palestinian terrorism. Today, there is a situation and the reality is going to change and again there will be no need but to remind you that we removed some censors like this in the past but we share borders with Lebanon, Egypt and the Jordan and we have reached agreement with them.
Statistically, this measure is not the full preventive measure against terrorism but there is an improvement. Statistics show that at Gaza Strip where we have the security, there was not even a single concentration of suicide bombers in the state of Israel. Therefore, it is important that we protect our people. We believe that human life is more important because that is something that is irreversible. If you love men, if you love family and if you destroy it, it does not only destroy the victim but the immediate family and friends and loved ones and others. Reconfirming Israel’s position on the future of the Middle East he said, “Our position was very clear why we submitted the paper to the court in Hague. Our opinion stated that it was not a matter for the court at The Hague, that it was a political method. We were supported by vast majority of countries in the world. Even the European Union supported Israel’s position on that. They agree that Hague is not the right place to discuss the issue because it requires security and defensive measure and we have the right to protect our people. It is more than the right but the commitment and obligation to do so. And when the other party will be able to come back to negotiate without violence, then we can discuss with them on the future of the Middle East.
“As it is today, Israel has suffered in the last two and a half years more than 19,000 terrorist attacks. The phenomenal suicide bombing became something that is known all over the world and it is targeted indiscriminately against Israeli citizens. Our policy is very clear, we believe that the conflict is solvable. We believe that it will be solved. We are optimistic about this, there should be an end to the use of violence and terrorism in our region.” Asked which part of the country would he prefer, if he had an option? “1 am a Nigerian. I like all parts of Nigeria. Here in Abuja I enjoy the weather. I travel a lot, whether it is south, east, west, north, I enjoy all parts of Nigeria. I visited almost all the states. I must remind you that it was while living here, that some of these new states were created. Basically, I think I have good knowledge of the federation. I visited almost all the states.” Katz expresses hope that Nigeria will continue on the right track with the right energy, enthusiasm, commitment and determination to complete the necessary changes: “I hope you will allow this nation to become a leading force in Africa.”
“There is not doubt in my mind that democracy, with the difficulties that it brings is much better than any other type of regime. Democracy is not only some kind of a game with specific rule to follow, democracy is a way of living. It is understanding of people that they have the ability and they have also the commitment to take part in the affairs of their own society. And they help to influence and to make a change in the society. I think that people should know that leadership is important but more important than leadership is an active role and support of the people and being involved in what is happening around you in order to achieve and create better condition. Democracy is the road that never ends. We can do better than what we are doing now in fact, democracy demands the commitment of every individual in the society to be part of and not only to expect the things that should be done for you. You have to be very aware of your choices and try to work for better society always and these can be done, as it is done in so may other places in the world and I think that here in Nigeria that is something that has to change. People are happy today than at the time that I was here during the time of military dictatorship.
Katz says Israel and U.S share together many values: “We have same belief of democratic values, of the importance of human rights and many other values that bring other societies together. We feel alike when it comes to this world of value.” He is of the view that religion as a philosophy of life should focus on what brings human beings together and not the other way: “Unfortunately in the world that we live, every five percent of differences leads to bloodshed. Therefore, my philosophy is not to look for the differences in religion but to look for the common ground we have together.”