The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Israel as a Source of Inspiration: The “Special Relationships” between Israel and Costa Rica 1948–1967) and the Tradition of Converso Origins of the Initial Costa Rican Population

In May 1966 the book Israel as viewed by Costa Ricans (Isreal visto por ojos costaricenses) was published in San Jose. The book sponsored by the Costa Rica-Israel Cultural Institute, gathered various testimonies of Costa Rica citizens who visited Israel. These testimonies came from state men who served in the Costa Rican diplomatic corps or from ordinary citizens who participated in the technical and educational programs organized by the Histadrut or the Department of International Cooperation in the Israeli foreign ministry.

Praising the young state for its technical and social progress, the testimony of Luis Alberto Monge, who was the first Costa Rican ambassador to Israel and later, the State president, presented Israel as a "model homeland" for humanity. Monge also mentioned the meeting he had with Former Costa Rican presidents José Figueres Ferrer and Francisco Ohrlich in September 1950, shortly after their visit to Israel in July-August 1950. During this meeting Figueres described Israel "as a society of the 21st century".

Those ideal descriptions of Israel testify to the early existence of a pro-Israeli attitude among some of the Costa Rican political ruling elite, which in its turn fomented the development of a special relationship between the two states. In 1976 at the height of this relationships, the Ambassador of Costa Rica to the U.N. was attacked physically by some Arab delegates because of his pro-Israeli attitude. In 1982 Luis Alberto Monge decided to move the costa Rican Embassy to Jerusalem.

The creation of such a pro-Israeli attitude is not so easy to explain. In spite of the tradition that the original Costa Rican inhabitants were of converso origin since the fourth and fifth decade of the twentieth century the costa Rican society was plagued by antisemitism as manifested by the anti-Jewish attitude of almost all its press. The lecture will address these issues by explaining the reasons that led to the development of these two-states relationship and will focus on the persons and organizations in both Israel and Costa Rica who had been involved in creating this unique bond.