Georgia and Israel-a long history of diplomatic relations

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin shakes hands with Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Photo by: PM's press office, 10 Jan 2017 - 12:03, Tbilisi,Georgia

2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Israel.

The two countries enjoy solid relations and cooperation in numerous fields, including politics and culture, tourism and religion.

Israel was one of the first countries to offer aid to Georgia after the Tbilisi flood in 2015. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo offered Georgia help in searching for escaped animals and supplied equipment for the task. The zoo also helped Tbilisi reconstruct its wildlife park.

Jerusalem and Tbilisi agreed on a visa-free regime in 2013, as a result of which Georgian citizens travelling to Israel as tourists or private visitors can stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa during a 6 month period. The same goes for Israeli tourists to Georgia.

These measures have reflected positively on Georgia’s tourism industry. Last year in 2016, 100,000 tourists visited Georgia thanks to the visa-free regime; this was a 57% growth in comparison to 2015.

Many Israeli tourists come to Georgia looking to visit monuments of the Jewish cultural legacy of the country. To aid travellers interested in such aspects of Georgia’s cultural heritage, the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) published an illustrated book last year for Jewish travellers with detailed information on synagogues and Jewish history museums in Georgia.

Relations between the two nations date back several thousands of years, back to the 6th century BCE, when the Jews were expelled from Israel under their Babylonian rulers.

Officially, there are currently less than 4,000 Jews in Georgia. According to Tbilisi’s Beit Ha-tfutsot (Museum of the Jewish Peoples), approximately 30,000 Georgian Jews emigrated from the country en - masse in the 1970s due to softer emigration policies in the USSR for the Jews. This wave of immigration made for 17 percent of Soviet Jewish emigrants during that period.

Just yesterday, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin paid a two-day visit to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi where he met his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and other state officials.