After spending four years as a Bay Area resident, departing Deputy Consul General of Israel Ravit Baer says she will miss a lot about the area. And that includes the “season-less weather.”
“I love it. You never sweat, and you never need a heavy coat,” Baer said about her time in San Francisco.
She arrived at her post in 2015, serving as chair of the consulate’s political and public diplomacy departments. She also facilitated Israeli-American collaboration in economic trade and development-aid programs in underserved countries.
Baer’s boss, Consul General Shlomi Kofman, says he will miss his deputy. “During her posting, Ravit has modeled Israel’s values and Israeli diplomacy with commitment and grace,” he said. “Over the past four years, Ravit has fostered valuable relationships with our friends in the Bay Area, who I know will also miss her greatly.”
Even though Baer attended to government-related matters throughout the day, the Jerusalem native still immersed herself in Bay Area life. She said she would miss San Francisco’s rich cultural discourse and its diversity (and, of course, the weather).
“The incredible thing about San Francisco is that it is similar to Israel because there are many different cultures and peoples, which allows you to relate to a plethora of experiences,” she said.
Among Baer’s proudest accomplishments was promoting the partnership between local and Israeli law enforcement, which together worked to combat human trafficking in the Bay Area. In November 2017, she helped arrange a visit to Israel for a delegation of Bay Area attorneys and law enforcement officers to study how government agencies there are confronting the issue.
Baer also organized a coalition of 15 Jewish young adult leaders from the Bay Area and Seattle to travel to Kenya and see firsthand the work of Mashav, Israel’s international development program. The participants learned about aid programs focused on agriculture, gender politics, education and public health.
“Mashav alumni [from around the world] are establishing programs in their own countries, which is a phenomenal outcome of the program,” Baer said.
Pointing to the many collaborations between Israel and Silicon Valley, Baer said a number of global technological advancements have resulted from that relationship. The startup nation and the startup epicenter rely on each other, said Baer, who estimated that some 35,000 Israelis live in the Bay Area, most of them working in the tech industry.
“This region is extremely important for the Israeli economy,” said Baer. “Every major company in the Bay Area has a research and development facility in Israel. Seattle’s Amazon headquarters even designed their drone technology in Israel.”
Alongside her diplomatic responsibilities, Baer also came across local anti-Israel activists trying to boycott and delegitimize Israel.
She said the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement “took [progressive] vocabulary and superimposed it on the Palestinian causes. It creates a narrative that Europeans came to colonize in the Middle East, Jews are just a religion and have no right to self-determination, and that they are colonialists from Europe.”
However, she added, “I think BDS is becoming obsolete. In a way, it was also a façade, which quickly disappeared into a really hateful organization against the State of Israel.”
Despite the polarization, Baer said that she always worked to bridge gaps.
“I try to focus on the positive and advancing collaboration between the two regions [Israel and the U.S.] to find where we share challenges, solutions and interest so we can bring together communities from both sides.”
Just before leaving her position, Baer urged young Jews to remain faithful to statehood and their Jewish identities.
“Generally I don’t think young Jewish Americans need to fight with anyone [about Israel]. It is not their job,” said Baer. “Visit Israel as much as you can. If you’re Jewish, this is your homeland. You need to know this place. These are your people, and you need to be connected to them.”
Baer is returning to Israel for two years before embarking on another diplomatic posting. Prior to her Bay Area posting, which covered a large spread up the Pacific Northwest, Baer served in the Ivory Coast and Cyprus as a deputy ambassador.