A time of celebration &mdash and a fond farewell

The 60th anniversary of the state of Israel happens to fall upon a personal milestone. In August, I will complete my post as the Israeli consul general in San Francisco. This concludes a four-year journey to strengthen the connection of Northern California to Israel. It is a job I will greatly miss.

Working with the Jewish community in the Bay Area has been a real pleasure. I participated in many stimulating and challenging discussions that were at a level of discourse I would expect only in Israel. I discovered a genuine and deep curiosity here in all matters pertaining to the country.

This community is at the forefront of the diaspora communities in recognizing the most salient emerging issues in Israel today and subsequently launching creative and substantive projects to address these challenges. The initiatives I’ve come across have dealt with economic development, education, empowerment of women, social welfare and much more. These projects not only made a lasting impact, but served to greatly strengthen Israel-diaspora relations.

While working with the Jewish community came quite naturally, representing Israel in the general community presented a larger challenge. Addressing specific issues always required a good explanation of context, and this in itself was quite a task. Israel is a cornucopia of different ethnicities, religions, traditions and personalities. It also happens to be the nexus to three continents and at the center of a conflict with global implications.

It is the object of both adoration and vitriol. I have found few who were entirely neutral in their opinion of the country. As such, I never had any trouble garnering interest in Israel; the challenge was to channel this interest toward a positive direction, and I have worked tirelessly to do so.

Fortunately, I have had a plethora of material to work with. Indeed, Israel’s achievements in the last 60 years often speak for themselves. From humble beginnings, Israel has since become a world-renowned center of innovation in the sciences, high-tech, renewable energy, medicine and many other fields. In this respect, the connection with the Bay Area is an obvious one.

During my tenure here, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the heads of some of the world’s leading technology companies. I found that in these companies there is significant Israeli input, both in the local offices and research centers and at those established in Israel. These company heads clearly value the culture of innovation that Israel fosters, and I was proud to witness the Israeli contribution to their success.

While Israel has certainly made great strides, it also faces significant security obstacles. When I first arrived in San Francisco, the issue of the day was the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. We had high hopes — believing that once Palestinians had their own territory, they would work toward their stated goal of building up their society. Unfortunately, the situation greatly deteriorated as Hamas took control of the region. We were all disappointed to see Gaza devolve into its current state. The territory continues to pose as great a threat as ever to our safety.

The second war with Lebanon was another major event that took place during my post. This war exposed new threats to our nation, as the hands of both Iran and Syria were clearly at play. These threats unfortunately remain unresolved, while Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser and Gilad Shalit remain captive.

In the midst of the war, I was greatly comforted by the outpouring of support Israel received from the Jewish community here. It was during this time that I felt the connection between the two communities most strongly. We both share the goal of a peaceful resolution to the overall conflict, and I hope that together we can continue to do all we can to achieve this outcome.

These four years have left a lasting impression on me, and I hope to continue my relationship with the wonderful people I have met here in Northern California. I see the Bay Area and Israel as two towers of the same bridge. The span is a long one, but we are nevertheless two parts of a greater whole.