Little did I know about the Kingdom of Bhutan before I accidently met a nice person in an elevator at some hotel in Florida. This was on 2011. We started talking, and found out that both of us have arrived to the same three day conference which will start the morning after. From this elevator “meeting”, we decided to have dinner together. At the time I was working at the Israeli consulate in New York, and was apart of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
As we sat for dinner, exchanging business cards, I all of a sudden realize that I am sitting for dinner with the Ambassador of Bhutan to the United Nations, Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, and my world has changed ever since.
I learned so much on that evening that really made me fall in love with Bhutan. I also learned that Mr. Wangchuk is a great supporter of Israel, admiring the Jewish history, Israeli political leaders, and Israeli success in technology and innovation, agriculture, medicine and more.
Mr. Wangchuk also told me at the time that there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries and that he will be very happy when this day will come. He mentioned so many things Bhutan and Israel could do together, in innovation, agriculture, medicine, and education.
The one thing that stayed in my mind was everything Mr. Wangchuk said about Bhutan’s motto of Happiness, and how meaningful for them that their people are happy. This is when he introduced me to the concept of “the Gross National Happiness Index” which is used by them to measure the happiness and well-being of Bhutan’s population. It seemed very cool for me to learn that this country is actually checking the happiness of their people and this left a great mark on me. I later found out that on 2011, Mr. Wangchuk, as Ambassador of Bhutan in the UN, has passed a UN resolution which that internationalized this GNH Index, and brought it to the world.
After dinner, feeling a bit “ignorant” , that a country like Bhutan really exists, I went back to the hotel room and started Googling. I was amazed with all the information I found out about Bhutan, and every new search I ran, made my curiosity about this country and about its people, grow more and more.
Ever since that elevator “meeting” Mr. Wangchuk and me became very close friends, and he repeatedly, on different occasions, again and again, told me “you must come to visit Bhutan”.
On April 2014, I made it to Bhutan. I am thankful to my good friend, MD Alex Kaplan, who was able to join me on this incredible visit, and we both arrived to Bhutan as special guests of Mr. Wangchuk.
Before the trip, I asked my self, what shall we bring with us from Israel? its never an easy task, because you want to bring something that is special and with a meaning. Knowing the special feelings, Mr. Wangchuk, has to Israel, and his dream that one day there will be official relations between the countries, I decided to bring with me a symbolic souvenir.
Having said that, I can mention that at the time, I didn’t know what was the “protocol” in Bhutan, and if it’s “ok” to bring gifts to the King of Bhutan, and I decided to find out. For this, I brought with me from Jerusalem, a Menorah. When I presented (with worry) the Menorah to Mr. Wangchuk, asking him if he thinks its a good idea to bring this special souvenir I got from Jerusalem, to the King of Bhutan, Mr. Wangchuk, replied with a big “of course”! and with a huge smile. The Menorah was delivered by Ambassador Wangchuk, and after a few weeks we got an official notification that it was received by the office of the king.
To connect this story to Chanukah, I want to mention that this Menorah which stand in the center of Chanukah for so many years, is a part of our most hard times as a nation, and the good times, it represents the story of the Jewish people returning home to Israel. There is a reason the Menorah was chosen to be the official symbol of the State of Israel. The Menorah represents the journey of the people of Israel from Egypt to the promised land, it represents light and spirituality, it represent hope and responsibility, it represents innovation, and future, life, and and happiness. For all of this the Menorah represents Israel, the Jewish struggle and history, and ever since this visit it also represents for me the Kingdom of Bhutan.
With the Menorah we provided a customized dedication which said: “Happiness Can Light The World, With Love, Your Friend From Israel”.
As we celebrate these new diplomatic relations, I want to thank Ambassador Wangchuk, the number one supporter of Israel in Bhutan, for all his love for Israel over the years, for his dream, for his support and true friendship. I am thankful, for living in these historic times for Israel, and for Bhutan. This is the time also to thank the leaders of both countries, and to the official Ministries of Foreign affairs of both countries, for their courageous decision to do good, and to bring Bhutan and Israel together.
All of this happened on 2014, and ever since like I said Bhutan is apart of me. This new agreement is the ultimate proof that Happiness Can Light the World. Happy Chanukah to the people of Israel. Happy Chanukah to the people of Bhutan!
Yours, Shahar Alon