Media breakfast with Israeli Bedouin diplomat Ishmael Khaldi

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Brenda Stern, Michael Morris (Assistant Editor of the Argus), David Jacobson, Regan Thaw (Eyewitness News) and Galya Greig

The SAZF (Cape Council) media team and invited guests from the local press — including the Argus, Eyewitness News, the New Age Online, the Jewish Report and community newspapers — were treated to a most refreshing and unique address by Mr Ishmael Khaldi on Friday 4 March at Cafe Riteve.

Mr Khaldi was born to a family of Bedouin shepherds and was the only one of his eleven siblings to earn an advanced degree. Now, the former shepherd is a seasoned Israeli diplomat.

Mr Khaldi explained that he wanted to serve as a diplomat so that he could “explain Israeli society, culture and politics from the perspective of the Bedouin minority in the Jewish state. My ultimate goal was to advocate for Israel and dispel the myriad of erroneous ‘facts’ that are unfortunately often accepted as truth.”

He has advocated for Israel on college campuses; served as Israel’s deputy consul general in the US Pacific Northwest; and has been Middle East and Arab affairs adviser for Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman,
since August 2009.

Mr Khaldi has a highly unusual story to tell, but, as he emphasises in his recently published memoir, A Shepherd’s Journey, his main message isn’t about himself. It is about how a non-Jew can be a loyal Israeli in a Jewish state often perceived as prejudiced against its minorities. In his words, “Israel is an immigrant country, an assemblage of cultural groups from all over the world — a multi-ethnic state combining Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, Bedouins, Druze, Arabs and more — who coalesce to make the country great. We are compelled to find a common language and common ground, despite our differences.”

He is quick to add that he isn’t setting out to paint Israel as a perfect place. “Like every other nation, Israel has its problems,” he says. Nevertheless, he was blindsided by the ferocity of Israel hatred he encountered — especially among Jews — that often earned him a less-than-warm reception.

Mr Khaldi, a Muslim Bedouin serving as an Israeli diplomat, is a fine example of the pluralist and democratic society that Israel so nobly represents.