Mayor of Rio de Janeiro celebrates recent election by visiting Israel

Marcelo Crivella (left), newly elected mayor of Rio de Janero with his tour guide at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, November 2016 (Photo by João Batista)

When thinking of Brazil, especially the city of Rio de Janeiro, what immediately comes to mind is soccer, samba, beaches, and maybe a few other less pleasant aspects, such as crime and the slums.

But, here in Israel, even fewer know about the political power of the Jewish community in this city and the close cooperation with the evangelical church. Evidence of this cooperation was seen during the elections for Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, when the prominent evangelical candidate Senator Marcelo Crivella won.

Crivella, a leader of one of the largest evangelical churches in Brazil, won the second round in October, after a particularly tumultuous campaign, during which anti-Semitic declarations were made by the Left Party candidate, Marcelo Freixo. On one occasion, after late Israeli President and Nobel Prize laureate Shimon Peres’ funeral, Freixo said that “Peres had an ideology of terror,” and left-wing activists also burned Israeli flags.

The Jewish community in Rio de Janeiro played an important role in the election of Crivella 59, especially the Jewish residents of a wealthy neighborhood in the city.

To celebrate his election, Crivella immediately flew to Israel with a delegation of family and friends. He visited the Garden Tomb, and on Nov. 7, met with the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat.

At the meeting, they discussed cooperation between the two cities, such as security, education and tourism. After the meeting, Crivella wrote on his Facebook page, “Israel specializes in security and education, a fact proven all over the world.” 

“Rio de Janeiro has to improve its security, invest in education and tourism,” he said, adding that he hopes the cities could work together.

Crivella hopes to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well.

Crivella expresses his love for Israel at every opportunity, and as a senator, he was a strong voice against the ousted President, Dilma Rousseff, when she rejected the appointment of Danny Dayan as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil.

In an article, Crivella wrote that “rejecting the ambassador could be interpreted as support for the movement calling for boycott of Israel, BDS.” He also mentioned in his article that Dayan is “a well prepared and legitimate diplomat appointed by a friendly country.” In Crivella’s opinion, the rejection of the appointment of Dayan just because he served as leader of the settlements in the Judea and Samaria, was a lame reason to vote against him.

In November last year, Crivella joined some 1,500 people who were demonstrating for Israel, and a few days before the demonstration he called “all friends of Israel” to join the event.

Crivella is one of the leaders in the UNIVERSAL church, founded by his uncle, Bishop Edir Macedo, with 13,000 churches throughout Brazil and the world, including one in Tel Aviv. Also, the second-largest television network, RECORDE, and Media group with newspapers and radio networks belonging to this church.

Brazil is home to 120,000 Jews.

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Rachel (Rachely) Scapa, studied journalism at the Open University TLV under Yedioth Aharonoth's journalist Dudi Goldman. Rachel served as news correspondent for various radio stations abroad, including BBC 3 Counties and Voice of America, both in English and Portuguese, giving the best reports from Israel. Currently she has two radio shows - one in Portuguese, which she has had for more than 13 years, presenting News from Israel and the ME. In the other, in Hebrew, she presents Brazilian music, on an Israeli radio station. Rachely is also a columnist for a Christian newspaper in Brazil, distributed over the triple border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.