An Open Letter To Senegal

Years ago, I gave a lecture at the MASHAV (Golda Meir Center) for guests of the Foreign Ministry. As I arrived a bit early for the lecture, I was asked to be the “judge” of the presentations each team delivered. Most of the participants were from Africa and the task they were assigned involved creating a social media campaign to promote the topic. As I listened to a group (I believe one of the men was from Senegal), I realized that the very foundation of their presentation was wrong.

They were trying to raise awareness that domestic violence was wrong. The presenters spoke about how proud they were that African countries, such as Senegal, got around to signing the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, including the rights of women in 2005. They spoke about media campaigns, television shows, etc. What they missed, I explained to them as gently as I could, was that their campaign was all wrong. To a man, I bet if you asked a Senegalese man if domestic violence was wrong, he’d say, “oh, absolutely,” and then, in too many cases, if he went home and found that dinner was cold, he’s smack his wife. That’s not domestic violence, he would say, it was a well-deserved punishment for her crime.

Into this picture of cultural norms, poverty, and tremendous need, Israel stepped in, bringing light, experience, assistance. We didn’t preach to them, we helped, we taught. About 75% of the workforce in Senegal is involved in agriculture (that’s a fancy way of saying they are farmers). So says Wikipedia and many others. Wikipedia continues, “Production is subject to drought and threats of pests such as locusts, birds, fruit flies, and white flies.”

Well, Israel is pretty lucky with most of those things – pests, locusts, fruit flies, etc. but drought, now that’s a serious thing here in Israel and so back in the early 1960s, an Israeli named Simcha Blass, invented this amazing thing called, “drip irrigation.” And a few years back, Israelis flew to Senegal in 2014 to help them implement this and other water-saving technologies.

In fact, Senegal and Israel ties go back much farther. In fact, one year after Senegal declared independence (in September 1960), Israel’s Defense Minister, Shimon Peres, represented Israel at the celebrations. This was after numerous interactions between the countries – all one-sided, of course. Senegal sent military delegations to learn about the Israeli army (the kibbutz movement and ways to combine agricultural development with the armed forces: Israel sent seed cultivation experts  (Middle East Record, published by Tel Aviv University, Volume II, Edited by Yitzchak Oron, Page 341-342).

Israel continued to assist Senegal for about 13 years…until Senegal thanked Israel by breaking diplomatic relations in the wake of the Yom Kippur War defeat. Yes, that was one of the wars in which WE were attacked, defended ourselves, gained the upper hand and handed back a stunning defeat…and so Senegal, of course, had no other option but to break relations to cater to their apparently deeper ties in the Arab world.

Israel’s Ambassador to Senegal (right)

And yet, twenty years later (when the Senegalese were probably running out of water) diplomatic relations with Israel began to develop once again. Israel has…um…had…an Ambassador to Senegal and according to Aminata Toure, a former prime minister and an adviser to the current president, relations with Israel would be long-lasting (that was about 8 months ago).

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Toure said, “We can maintain good relations with Israel and the Arab countries. “We see no contradiction, even if we have our opposition to some issues.”

So, they see no issue in taking our aid and then supporting an anti-Israel resolution, one-sided, unfair, completely out of proportion to what Palestinians are doing and problems around the world. Okey-dokie. Clearly this calls for an Open Letter to Senegal.

Dear Senegal,

Let’s make this short and sweet. Israel has been giving you assistance for the last 55+ years. In light of your recent vote, we are re-evaluating our Friends list and find that we’ve been wasting valuable time, energy, resources, faith and hope on you.

We just want to reassure you and the world that we are not leaving you helpless and abandoned. Your good friends,the Palestinians, have offered aid. Yes, I know, they have never sent economic aid to a foreign country, never sent humanitarian assistance. They have no trained search and rescue forces (but they ARE pretty good at demolition if you need any buildings, schools, homes, etc. blown up).

They have never invented any great medical devices, medicines, procedures and yes, I know, they regularly send their sick patients to Israel (including those of their President, Prime Minister, leaders and more) but the good news is after a visit to one of their doctors in Gaza hospitals, there are rarely any follow up visits needed (or possible).

Agriculture? Well, um…they did have green houses, amazing green houses that produced some of the most desired and delicious bug-free, organic celery, peppers and other produce. Although, to be fair, I think they only had them for about 24 hours before they burned them to the ground, so that might not be much help given that the ones who created the hot houses were the people you just betrayed last week.

Telecommunications and cellular networks and cyber-security? Well, no, sorry, I don’t think they have any of that, but you still have telephone polls, right? And, pigeons, maybe?

Look, I know this might look bad if Israel told you to go to hell, but it’s okay. First, becasuseThe Palestinians have got your back now that you’ve decided to stab Israel in our backs.

Don’t worry…be happy. Oh, and if you need any more help from Israel…yeah…that’s funny.

Um. No.

Shalom, Senegal.


Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.