Paraguay is in the news today, at least in Israel. Following on the heels of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, today Paraguay joined Guatemala in opening its embassy in Israel’s capital as well. During the ceremony, attended by the Prime Minister of Israel and other dignitaries from both countries, Israeli Prime Minister spoke of the ties that bind the two nations. During World War II, while many remained silent, this South American country actually helped Jews to escape Nazi Germany.
In his remarks, Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes said, “From the depth of my heart, I appreciate this country that courageously defends its right to live in peace….It is building a praiseworthy economically-prosperous state that ensures its future and that of its children.”
While Israel is often in the news, less is known, perhaps, about Paraguay. So here are some important facts:
- First, Paraguay is a very beautiful country (see the video below).
- Its capital, and largest city, is Asuncion and by population size, it is actually smaller than Israel (with about 7 million compared to Israel’s 8.4 million). By size of land, Israel is less than 23,000 square kilometers (including the Golan Heights), while Paraguay covers over 400,000 square kilometers.
- It is located in the center of South America, hence its nickname is Corazón de América (heard of America).
- Almost all of its electricity is produced from the power of the Itaipu Dam, located on the Brazil-Paraguayan border.
- Paraguay was the last nation in South America to grant women the right to vote (in 1961). Women gained equal rights within marriage in 1992.
- Paraguay’s literacy rate is higher than that of the United States. The country boasts a literacy rate of 94% (compared to 86% in the US).
- Like Israel, Paraguayans eat their main meal in the afternoon.
- The country has a well trained navy…a bit of a strange concept for a country that has no access to any oceans.
- Paraguayan homes have no doorbells – so to announce your arrival, you clap your hands. Because the weather tends to be hot there, most windows stay open.
As for the Jewish community, today the Jewish population there is at about 1,000 people.