Argentina and Israel: Turning the Tide from a Curse to a Blessing

Diego and Carolina Freytas

by Jonathan Feldstein

Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood has a distinct international flavor. Streets are named Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Uruguay and more, recognizing Latin American countries that voted to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel in 1947. Notably missing from the top of the list is Argentina, which abstained during the 1947 United Nations vote.

Recently, Argentinian President Javier Milei arrived in Israel to show solidarity at this time of war, and to turn the tide from the stained past of his country’s relationship with Israel. Milei’s visit was significant and historic on many levels. He arrived shortly after being elected in November, signifying the significance he places on Israel and his country’s relationship with Israel, which was a foundation of his campaign. Indeed, it was Milei’s first state visit overseas. Milei’s arrival also made him the first head of state to visit Israel from South America since the inhuman Hamas attack on Israel and massacre, the beginning of a war that’s now well into its fourth month.

As many foreign dignitaries have done, Milei visited communities next to the Gaza border that were overrun by Hamas terrorists, among which some 1200 people were massacred by the terrorists, and from which hundreds were take hostage. Indeed, the significance of President Milei’s visit was punctuated by his being accompanied to Israel’s Gaza border by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog

Presidents Milei and Herzog were accompanied by former hostage Ofelia Roitman, a woman originally from Argentina, who moved to Israel in 1985. This was her first visit back to the farming community from which she was kidnapped.

Milei gave unconditional backing to Israel, calling Hamas, the Palestinian Arab Islamists, a “terrorist group” who had committed “a crime against humanity.” Mieli noted, “The free world can’t remain indifferent in this case, as we see clear examples of terrorism and antisemitism and what I would describe as 21st century Nazism. When we hear about the methods that were used this time, it reminds us of the atrocities of the Holocaust.”

Milei’s visit was also noteworthy in that he prayed at the Western Wall, danced with Israeli worshippers, and affirmed his intention to move Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem.

During his visit, some of my Argentinian friends went out of their way to express their pride and joy in seeing their president turning the tide on relations with Israel that have been marred by a history that’s less than positive, and previous leaders whose positions who have been decidedly hostile to Israel, or ambivalent at best.

Argentina welcomed and gave refuge to Nazi leaders and war criminals following the Holocaust. Two massive Islamist terrorist attacks took place there, targeting the Israeli embassy (1992) and Jewish Community Center (1994) in Buenos Aries. Investigations into these and the culpability of its leaders at the time also lead to the mysterious death of a Jewish prosecutor on the eve of a trial that would have made much of this public.

President Milei’s visit made me think of my friend Diego Freytes and his profound and personal essay in “Israel the Miracle,” published by the Genesis 123 Foundation, featuring 75 essays by Christian leaders from around the world about why Israel is significant to them.  Diego not only refers to Argentina’s bitter past in blocking Jewish immigration in the 1930s, harboring Nazi war criminals and terrorists, and covering up its compliance as a base for Iranian terror.  He does a deep dive into the meaning of the verse, Genesis 12:3.

More than just a cursory repetition of the Biblical verse, he looks at the root of the Hebrew words and what they mean, noting not just that it is an imperative to bless Israel. Diego writes that the root of the word “to bless” is the same as the root of the word “knee.”  He explained that it’s not just a concept, but an active duty, as in to bend a knee. Literally, to stand in solidarity.  President Milei’s visit clearly did that.

The corollary to actively blessing Israel is cursing Israel. Despising Israel. A simple English or Spanish translation does not reveal the depth of the verse in the original Hebrew.  The consequence for cursing, or “looking down on someone” is not simply a non-descript curse.  Diego notes the Hebrew for the second part come from the word that means “to destroy completely.”

Reflecting on Argentina’s past, Diego notes the consequence of its actions that have been a curse to Israel, and how that has been a scar on Argentina for decades, leading to multiple examples of a country that once had a glorious past, spiraling downward to near utter destruction in the 80 years since it began cursing Israel. He writes before Milei’s election, as a reflection and seeking forgiveness for Argentina’s past, and as a prayer for its future. “What happened to my nation? Argentina is in a deep economic, political, and social crisis that has lasted more than 80 years. Inflation grows at over 100 percent per year. There is only a memory of that dazzling nation.”

This week, Diego Freyets’ words and President Milei’s visit came together as the beginning of a hint of turning the tide. In the early hours of Feb. 12, the IDF conducted a seamless and bold military operation in the southern Gaza city, Rafah, rescuing two hostages.  Rafah remains the last stronghold of Hamas to where its terrorist leaders have fled, and where they have brought the remaining hostages being held ever since Oct. 7.

Of 136 hostages being held, it could have been any hostages found and brought home. However, the two rescued were born in Argentina.  When President Milei visited the Gaza border area, he knew these Argentines were still in captivity just miles away. Is this a coincidence, or a divine wink that the tide is turning in the right direction, that the blessing is beginning?  Only God knows. But may He continue to work through President Milei to heal the decades-long rift, and may all the remaining hostages be rescued and come home soon.