New consul general looks forward to being at the cutting edge

Though the new consul general of Israel has spent the last four years at home in Israel, his sense is that positive feelings toward the Jewish state have mostly grown — at least among Jews.

“I think people have more sympathy toward Israel, especially because of 9/11,” David Akov said recently, his first week on the job. “There is a lot of support for Israel in the U.S. and in the Jewish community, and understanding of the larger issues, for example, that the Palestinians need to stop terror as a first step to go on with the peace process.”

In his upcoming four years here in the Bay Area, Akov predicts some difficult times for Israel, especially with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for disengagement from Gaza.

“There will be some dramatic events, but unfortunately, there are always dramatic events happening,” he said. “We’ll have to deal with them and promote an understanding of Israel’s position.”

Akov comes to San Francisco with a lot of experience in America under his belt.

From 1995 to 2000 he lived in Washington, D.C., working in the Israeli embassy as the liaison between the government of Israel and Congress. And from 1989 to 1993, he lived in Atlanta, Ga., serving in the number-two post at the consulate.

“I always wanted to live abroad,” he said. “You switch every few years, and it’s very dynamic.”

Even during his last four years in Israel, Akov spent much of his time dealing with Congress and American political affairs.

He has lived in the United States even as a child. When he was 6, he spent a year in Silver Spring, Md., while his parents were there on sabbatical. When he was in high school, he spent a year in Raleigh, N.C.

Akov, 44, is a native of Rehovot. His father is Israeli-born, and his mother immigrated to Palestine from Czechoslovakia after it was occupied by the Nazis.

At Hebrew University, he studied Middle Eastern history and Arabic, and then obtained a master’s degree in political science before joining the foreign service. In his first position with the foreign ministry, he worked as a researcher, studying the Iran-Iraq war.

He is here with his wife, Tamar, a graphic designer who will serve as the cultural attaché, and their three children.

But except for a brief visit here, this is his first real exposure to the Bay Area.

Ironically, San Francisco is probably one of the most desired posts for diplomats abroad — even in Israel, where the Bay Area is known for its share of anti-Israel sentiment. But Akov said many people in the foreign ministry nonetheless apply for the job, perhaps drawn to the challenge of it.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “What makes it so fascinating is the width and breadth of the spectrum relating to Israel.”

Akov said that outside of New York, San Francisco is the major city when it comes to Israel, not only because of its Jewish community, but because of the large Israeli presence in Silicon Valley.

Additionally, “This is the intellectual cutting edge,” he said. “The ideas and trends that start here will get to the rest of the United States five years later and then the rest of the world 10 years after that. It’s both fun and interesting to be where things start.”

Calling the Jewish community a “great asset,” Akov said he hoped to build bridges to other ethnic groups as well, “to every relevant ethnic or political or interest group that is interested.”

Akov said he was looking forward to getting to know the Jewish community, and urged people to use the consulate as a resource.

“The consulate should be regarded as a gateway and a bridge to Israel,” he said. “I encourage organizations and individuals to use us as much as possible, this is what we are here for.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."