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Diplomatically Speaking

Libi Astaire

For those who like politics and travel, being an ambassador can seem like a dream job. But for Tova Herzl, a Torah-observant Jew representing the State of Israel, the reality often contained more grit than glamour.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

“It’s much harder to be an Israeli diplomat than to be a diplomat representing most other countries. Let’s say you’re the ambassador for Australia — what’s in the news? That there has been a slight change in their economic policy?” Tova Herzl, a former member of Israel’s diplomatic corps, laughs. Although she officially retired from the Foreign Ministry about a decade ago, the recent publication of her memoir Madame Ambassador: Behind the Scenes with a Candid Israeli Diplomat (Rowman & Littlefield) has brought her back into the limelight, and she clearly enjoys her role as raconteur. Her book, as Tova readily admits, is no tell-all tome about some of the world’s most powerful people. Nor does it reveal hush-hush secrets about Israel’s defense systems or clandestine relations with outwardly hostile countries. Instead, she says, she wants to give readers an inside look into what an ambassador actually does, to go beyond the glamour and share some of the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes details of a job that, by definition, takes place mostly in the public eye. First, though, as we sit down with tea and biscuits in Tova’s comfortable Jerusalem apartment, I want to find out how one becomes an ambassador — especially a Torah-observant woman who began her diplomatic career back in the 1980s. 

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