Earlier this month, the Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco welcomed its new consul general of Israel to the Pacific Northwest. Andy David, a dentist who began a diplomatic career in 1998, took over the post previously held by Akiva Tor. He will serve the region until 2016.
David, 44, served as the policy adviser to Israel’s foreign minister last year, and in addition to holding a number of domestic positions, including as foreign affairs’ deputy spokesman, he was stationed as deputy head of mission in Azerbaijan from 1991 to 2001 and in Hong Kong in 2001–2002. David served as deputy consul general in Chicago and the Midwest between 2004 and 2008.
“My main goal is to improve the very special relations between Israel and the U.S. That’s the mother ship,” said David. “Now, how do you translate that into a work plan?”
David admits he’s facing a steep learning curve, and given that he’s barely a month into the job, he’s hesitant to share any concrete ideas for his tenure.
The biggest challenge, for now, “is to not feel surprised by the many surprises to come, and to be able to do the right thing,” he said. “In order to do that, of course, I have many allies I need to consult. I need to learn quickly.”
David is no stranger to challenge. In Azerbaijan, he and his family faced regular power and water cuts, earthquakes, and — worst of all — a serious shortage of ice cream.
“[During the] first year, we couldn’t find ice cream that was not expired,” he said.
But life in the largely secular Shiite Muslim country was not all hardship. “In Azerbaijan, you feel very welcomed as an Israeli,” he said. Even though the country’s relationship with Israel was not public, it was good. “Being a foreigner is an advantage…they understand that there are many things that you don’t understand.”
David points out that some of the biggest challenges diplomats face are encountered going from a Western to another Western society. You think you know what to expect, so you don’t prepare for the surprises.
“I feel that I am still in the learning process, and it’s overwhelming,” he said. “But I’m very luck to have a wonderful team here in my office, and a wonderful predecessor.”
He plans to pick up the partnerships with the academic, cultural, and Jewish organizations handled by Tor, who is back in Israel awaiting his next assignment. David also expresses awareness of the challenges Israel’s reputation faces in the Pacific Northwest, where things are not always, well, pacific. He hopes to bring “the real Israel” to the area.
“We are a normal country dealing with many questions,” he said. “We hold the same values, and according to those values we are trying to solve our challenges.” While he admits some stalwart opinions can’t be changed, he hopes to change the conversation from actions to shared values.
David also hopes to capitalize on the technology markets that the Pacific Northwest and Israel share. “This is a place of creation of new ideas and new technologies and innovation, of creativity,” he said. Israel “is also very capable and identifiable with those concepts…synergy between the two is something we have to continue to pursue, and make it tighter.”
David, who was just joined by his wife, Ayelet, and their three children, Shir, Ron and Mika, plans to visit Seattle after the holidays, when they’ve settled into their new home. He plans to visit a few times a year.
“Seattle is not a place a typical Israeli [tourist] will visit,” he said. “So I think there is a lot of question marks about Seattle for many Israelis. I want to put some of those questions marks away.”
David also wants to get to know the Israeli community, many members of which see themselves as temporary, but end up staying here long term. “How are they doing? What’s on their agenda? Beyond their work hours, what preoccupies them?”
The four-year lifecycle of a diplomatic post takes a toll on families, he said. Many diplomat families choose not to make strong bonds.
“We don’t have choices,” he said. “We know exactly when we come, we know exactly when we leave.”
But within a day of arriving to the Bay Area, his wife said, “It’s going to be very hard to leave here in four years.”
“We will dive into that water,” said David. “While we’re here, we will be part of this community. And we will be part of this family here.”