Ambassador Aharon Ofri
Credit: Ofri Family
Ambassador Aharon Ofri was born in 1920 in Bratislava, at that time a part of Czechoslovakia. Throughout his life, Aharon was a humanist with a special love for the Jewish people and with complete devotion to public activity, for the community and later for his country.
After Hitler's invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia, his community decided to honor his contribution and commitment to public activities as part of the youth movement "Bnei Akiva" and in recognition decided to give Aharon, then aged 18, a unique and precious gift, a certificate allowing entry into Palestine. This certificate undoubtedly saved his life and allowed him to escape the Holocaust which decimated the Jewish people in Europe. Aharon lost his entire family in the Holocaust.
When he reached Palestine in the days before the creation of Israel, Aharon decided to implement his love of the land and applied to study at the agricultural school "Mikve Israel" in order to acquire knowledge in this important field and apply it in the establishment of the kibbutzim, one of which he joined at the end of his training and studies.
In the midst of World War II, from 1942 to mid-1945, he agreed to leave his kibbutz and volunteered as an emissary to the Jewish communities in Syria. He was sent to Aleppo to help the communities through those difficult days and played an important role in organizing the local youth in special units that spearheaded the illegal immigration from Syria to Palestine.
At the end of World War II, in 1945, Aharon was called to assist the rehabilitation effort and take part in the rescue and rehabilitation of survivors of the concentration camps in Europe and was sent to Prague and Bratislava in particular. Aharon returned to his hometown and witnessed firsthand the horrors of the destruction of the Jewish community there.
Over a period of two years he helped reorganize the youth movement "Bnei Akiva" in the city, establish orphanages and care centers, and form groups of young people who waited for the moment when it would be possible to bring them to Israel.
In 1947, Aharon moved to France, where he worked in Paris and Marseilles bringing holocaust survivors from all over Europe to France and from there to Israel. While in France he met his wife Zipora and married her.
After the establishment of the state of Israel, Aharon and Zipora returned to the young State of Israel and established their home in Jerusalem. Aharon joined the civil service and his wife Zipora worked in the Israeli Knesset.
In 1960, Aharon joined the ranks of the Foreign Ministry, where he served for more than 30 years, during which he served as the Israel Ambassador to several Latin American and African countries, as well as to the Israel delegation to the UN.
In his work at the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Ofri worked in MASHAV, the Agency for International Development Cooperation. Aharon firmly believed that through cooperation and sharing of agricultural knowledge, technology, and education, Israel can assume a prominent role and take positive action that touches the lives of many. The nascent State of Israel could start to establish foreign relations on a solid foundation of true friendship with developing countries in the world.
Aharon firmly believed that due to its unique circumstances Israel had a moral duty to share the know-how and technologies it developed in such areas as agriculture, community building and desertification with the newly emerging countries in Africa and Asia, and through cooperation foster better relations with the developing countries.
Aharon was a major contributor to formulating MASHAV's philosophy which focuses on training professionals from the developing world to adopt the Israel experience and knowhow and formulate their own solutions to ensure social, economic and environmental sustainable development in their home countries.
The Aharon Ofri International Training Center is a most befitting memorial to the man and his vision.