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Israeli Ambassador Ilan Fluss highlights innovation as the key to developing each country, while further strengthening bilateral ties.

Ambassadors often have a very glamorous, jet-setting image with most of their duties and responsibilities shrouded in mystery. At least to those not involved in governance, ambassadors are representatives, travelling the world while rubbing elbows with country leaders, the rich and the famous. It’s a huge misconception that Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Ilan Fluss, is trying to address by engaging in grassroots projects.


“It’s hard work, not just going to cocktails and parties. It’s constantly looking for new opportunities to enhance relations between countries. It’s important to engage with as many people and partners as possible—a lot of thinking, planning, implementation, outreach, and engagement. And then the follow up, which is the most important thing,” Fluss stresses.

He shares that interacting with government secretaries and other similar leaders is still very much important because they make the decisions. But at the end of the day, the projects they push for are for the benefit of the public.

“We want and need to address everybody, interact, and be relevant. And that’s the challenge for ambassadors because, especially here in the Philippines, they look very highly at ambassadors. There’s no expectation for us to go down [to the local level]. But for me it’s extremely important, touching the grassroots, touching people’s lives,” the University of Haifa alumnus says.

Fluss cites one example, a project that the embassy is spearheading in Tarlac. They visited the Tarlac Agricultural University (TAU) and he met with alumni of an agro-internship program in Israel. Students actively teach their fellow students regarding the latest in agriculture, but they also encourage teaching the surrounding communities.

During his visit, the Israeli ambassador sampled some of the produce and remarked that their quality is at par with those in his home country. However, the visit also revealed some concerns and challenges with the existing technology.

“When we visited and were made aware of their issues, we found an opportunity for partnership. So we are contributing some upgrades to their technology. Some Israeli experts will visit soon in order to consult and provide more training. That’s an example of how we help develop partner countries; we join local  initiatives and support, enhance, help.”

He also shares another experience when they went to a remote village in Nueva Ecija to donate food and water purification systems to indigenous communities. Fluss explored the village to understand the community and living conditions. It’s these experiences, he explains, which are very helpful when it comes to their work and creating projects and it’s why he tries to travel outside Metro Manila as much as possible. He also adds that connecting to the people and the communities is important for him as each experience teaches a lot.


Fluss highlights fostering development cooperation as their key objective as ambassadors, “For me, one of the most important things is to identify development challenges in the [host] country and to contribute to solving these challenges. Israel is a very far away country which has technologies; we can provide different solutions that are very relevant to the Philippines. However, we have to adapt to the local conditions.”

Even though Israel, whose total area is only around 7 percent of the Philippines’ total area, is a small country with a different culture and challenges, the ambassador shares that there are comparable approaches in developing solutions. In principle, the Israeli approach is finding out how to do more with less resources.

“The approach and challenges are very similar. Like, for example, with agriculture. How can you produce more [crops] with less inputs? It’s important to consider climate change and environmental challenges, and it’s also relevant when you have less resources. It’s a constant search for a better approach; you can always improve,” he reveals.

Despite its size, Israel, Fluss underscores, is a strong country and is a global center of innovation. He likens their country’s technological capabilities to that of United States’ Silicon Valley and it’s this strength that they could contribute to the Philippines.

Every year, 400 Filipino students are invited to Israel for an 11-month practical internship. This program would allow them to work with Israeli farmers five days a week, study for one day, and rest for the remaining day. While there, they are to conduct a research program and before the program ends, the students should have prepared a business plan. The expectation is for them to bring home different approaches to agriculture.

“In the Philippines, close to 30 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture. In Israel, it’s less than 2 percent. Because it’s very mechanized and technology-intensive. Farmers in Israel look at this agriculture venture as a source of income,” Fluss explains. “You have to make money, it’s a business. It’s not backyard farming. So, you have to maximize your outputs and minimize your inputs because you’re investing. And that’s a different approach [compared to how agriculture is done in the Philippines]. So, the students are learning the technologies and practices and are exposed to a different mindset. When they come back, they could bring home a different approach and become agripreneurs.” But as a foreign envoy, Fluss clarifies that the goal is simply to introduce to Filipinos a different perspective. But ultimately, these new programs shouldn’t change the culture. It’s all about introducing something new.

The ambassador shares that the embassy is also in talks with Department of Agriculture (DA) officials regarding dairy production. Israel, he reveals, is the world leader in milk production. One cow in Israel could produce 12,000 liters, the highest in the world. By using their approach and technology, Fluss hopes to see more local production of milk or dairy farming. Food security is another issue that Fluss would like to address. In one food security hackathon that he attended, his team shared Israeli foodtech and agro-technology. Among the things they shared were improved seeds which were developed to be resilient against drought and other effects of climate change; drip irrigation which uses remote sensing through the Internet of Things (IoT) technology and artificial intelligence (AI) which detects if a field needs more irrigation, pesticides, or other interventions. They also shared alternative food sources, such as vegetarian options for dairy, or beyond meat (plant based, 3D meat). With over 400 food technology startups in Israel, Fluss elaborates that there are plenty of practices and innovations that they could share here in the Philippines.

Apart from their assistance in agricultural programs, Israel could also help develop our military and defense initiatives. “Defense is a strategic issue for any country to be able to secure itself. Our countries are both dealing with the global challenge which is terrorism. We share principles and the values of a democracy that has to defend itself,” Fluss explains. Developing by encouraging the innovation sector to create local solutions also helps strengthen bilateral ties by making Israel a meaningful partner. This pandemic also provided many opportunities for collaboration and cooperation.

“During the pandemic, Israel sent PPEs (personal protective equipment) and test kits. Israel was leading also in terms of our vaccination campaign and we sent a delegation here to share our experience and practices. Another delegation came to share the clinical work and management of hospitals,” he shares. “I think the COVID-19 pandemic taught us that global issues need global approaches, which means sharing practices and learning from each other.”

But it’s not just helping or forming business partnerships, but partnering in a sense that their country also learns and benefits from the Philippines. Philippine Airlines hopes to soon launch a direct flight from Manila to Tel Aviv, which will greatly improve access between the two countries. Fluss illustrates that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 35,000 Filipino tourists would visit Israel and a similar number of Israelis also visited the Philippines. With direct flights, he expects that tourism between the two countries will flourish more.

 Israel is the Holy Land, a destination in the bucket list of almost every Filipino. The travel link will also serve the business community, government, and more. “We have close to 30,000 caregivers in Israel, which is critical for our society. It’s a mutual relationship [between Israel and the Philippines]. It’s not a one-way [relationship], it can’t be. It wouldn’t be sustainable if it’s one-way. A partnership benefits both sides,” the veteran ambassador highlights.

ISRAELI-PHILIPPINE RELATIONS Historically speaking, the relationship between Israel and the Philippines has always been strong, and there’s a bond that dates back to World War II. Fluss enlightens the team with a little history lesson, sharing the two significant historical events that formed the connection between our countries and also, sent out “a very strong moral message.”

Because of anti-Semitic sentiments, the Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler took over Germany in the 1930s. Over 6 million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis in a genocide, The Holocaust. Thousands of Jews fled the region, seeking refuge in various countries. ThenPhilippine President Manuel Quezon approved a special immigration programme in 1938 which helped save 1,300 Jews.

Quezon’s ‘Open Door Policy’ was considered controversial at the time and he was heavily criticized by many. “It was a unique policy because most countries closed their doors,” the Israeli ambassador reveals.

The president stood his ground and even planned the immigration of 10,000 more Jews through the ‘Mindanao Plan.’ Plans fell through, however, when the Japanese invaded the country. But since the end of the war, many have praised Quezon for his policy.

“[Quezon] assured us that big or little, he raised hell with every one of those persons,” Jewish-American businessman Alex Frieder shared in 1939. “He made them ashamed of themselves for being a victim of propaganda intended to further victimize an already persecuted people.”

The second event which Fluss believes strengthened our bilateral ties was when the Philippines voted in the United Nations (UN) in favor of the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel. Our country was the only country in Asia that supported the establishment of Israel.

“Recently, I approached the Philippine government and suggested that they recognize the international definition of antiSemitism, which is coming out of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), composed of Israel, Europe, and other countries relevant to the Holocaust,” he shares.

After his visit to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier this year, Fluss shares that they received a letter from then Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin which states that the Philippine government is joining in the recognition of the international definition of anti-Semitism.

“Today, all over the world, we see growing anti-Semitic [sentiments] and we see this, not necessarily in the Philippines, but in many countries. More attacks, more expressions of anti-Semitism. [Accepting the international definition] is a very important message coming out of the Philippines.”


Fluss started his foreign service career in 1994, serving from 1995 to 1998 as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines. Afterwards, he became the Spokesperson and Cultural Attaché at the Israeli Embassy in the Hague, Netherlands. For over two decades, he has served in various capacities in many regions all over the world. In October 2021, he returned to the Philippines, this time as the Israeli Ambassador.

“I don’t consider myself a diplomat. I’m a balikbayan,” Fluss says, noting his time in the late 1990s in the Philippines. “I opted in a request to come back as an ambassador [to the Philippines] because I felt that I could contribute a lot to this country and to the relations between our two countries.

He also highlights that while we have different cultures, one thing he highly appreciates in the country is our very welcoming nature which makes them, as foreign ambassadors, feel very accepted. Following his departure in 1998, he said that he had plenty of good memories and experiences which also made him want to come back to the country.

“As a diplomat, you move from country to country, assignment to assignment. We always look back favorably, but we also look forward to the next challenge. However, when I was given the option, I chose to come back here. I enjoyed the hospitality and the openness of the people. But I also came back because the embassy grew in size and areas of activity,” he shares.

Almost two years ago, the Embassy of Israel opened two new offices—one representing the Ministry of Economy and the other representing the Ministry of Defense. Fluss explains that this expansion demonstrates their keen interest in promoting relations in those fields. On a personal level, however, he shares that his action-oriented nature also drove him to return to push for more programs, more defense cooperation, and more trade and innovation partnerships.

Needless to say, the work of a diplomat is not about lavish parties and vainglorious ceremonies. And with the constant travelling, it is a challenge socially. But Fluss finds that the reward is the fulfillment in boosting international relations. Among his many achievements, the seasoned foreign representative shares that he helped establish the relations between Israel and Arab countries, a clandestine mission as a special envoy which eventually led to the Abraham Accords, a peace treaty which was a “dream come true” for Fluss.

During his time serving at the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN, he led the drafting of a resolution named “Agricultural Technology for Development.” Agriculture, he reveals, is a very sensitive issue. But after 11 months, the resolution was adopted with an enormous majority supporting the initiative. “It was a new resolution and the first time that Israel initiated one on a developmental area, nothing to do with the Middle East or the Holocaust,” he explains.

With their responsibilities, it seems that being a foreign representative is a heavy undertaking fraught with difficulties and pressure. But it’s an important duty that ultimately helps change lives. “At the end of the day, you influence people and you touch people’s lives. It’s really about trying to uplift the standard of living of people,” Fluss ends.

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