TAU Graduates Bolster Israel’s Global Standing

Written on | ,

Alumni in top diplomatic positions driven by a passion for Israel, share success stories from the field.

As a young girl growing up on a kibbutz, Galit Ronen wanted to change the world. At the time, she thought the way to do so was to become a geneticist: to learn how to feed the world and cure its diseases. This led her to TAU, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology. Today, she is Israel’s Ambassador to Argentina.

Like Ronen, many TAU alumni serve Israel on the global frontlines as diplomats. They include Rony Yedidia-Clein, Deputy Head of Mission at Israel’s Embassy in India, and Ehud Eitam, Israel’s Consul General in Istanbul. All three see their alma mater as an important stepping stone in their careers.

Diplomacy from the Heart

Ronen took a job with Israel’s Foreign Ministry more than 25 years ago, when she tired of her post-university research job. “I honestly think Israel is a miracle. Look at where we started,” she says. “It’s a country I believe in and I love its people.”

As for her current posting, she says Israel and Argentina enjoy good relations. President Alberto Fernandez visited Israel one month after his inauguration in 2019, only the second time that a sitting Argentinian president made a state visit. In the context of that trip, he also attended the 75th anniversary ceremony of the liberation of Auschwitz—a meaningful statement. In addition, much of the meat that Israel consumes comes from Argentina. During the first COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020, Ronen was instrumental in securing the entry of shohetim, Jewish ritual slaughterers, into Argentina, thus ensuring that Israelis had sufficient kosher meat for Passover.

On the global stage, Ronen thinks that Israel is in a better place than it has been in previous years. She attributes this to Israel’s vaccination campaign—“the whole world wants to learn from us”—and the recent peace accords with Arab nations.

Besides representing the country she loves, she enjoys the opportunity to reinvent herself every few years when she moves to a new assignment. “You have no friends or contacts; by virtue of your personality and what you represent, you have to start from zero and prove yourself.” The flip side, she says, is the loneliness.

Though her training as a scientist is far behind her, she has fond memories of TAU. “Most of my best friends to this day are from my time at University,” says Ronen. They include Prof. Udi Gazit, Founding Director of the BLAVATNIK CENTER for Drug Discovery. She mentions Prof. emer. Eliora Ron, with whom she remains in close touch, as having influenced her in the academic and personal spheres.

 

Galit Ronen (Photo: DEF)

“Zionism is Not a Dirty Word”

Like Ronen, Rony Yedidia-Clein was attracted to the Foreign Ministry because of a deep love of Israel. “Some people think Zionism is a dirty word but it’s not,” she says. The daughter of Israelis raised in the US, she made aliyah at age 18 to join the army. She went on to complete an undergraduate degree in English literature at TAU, where, she says, she learned critical thinking and communication skills that serve her until today, while enjoying “Tel Aviv’s special vibe.”

As Deputy Chief of Mission in India, Yedidia-Clein says she is proud of the robust relationship that has developed in the nearly 30 years since the two countries initiated diplomatic relations. This good relationship paid off during COVID-19. India provided emergency masks and equipment to Israel at the beginning of the outbreak, before Israel could produce enough for its own emergency staff. More recently, during the  COVID-19 outbreaks in India this spring, the Embassy, in cooperation with Israeli government bodies, organized a massive airlift of aid supplies to the country’s hospitals and clinics, including ventilators, oxygen concentrators and medication, in an effort to save as many lives as possible.

Aside from COVID-19, one of the Embassy’s main focuses now is a large-scale water project. Despite the fact that India possesses massive amounts of water, most of the population doesn’t have access to a clean, drinkable supply, Yedidia-Clein says. Through the Embassy, an Israeli expert will work with Indians to optimize use of this great resource.

Though Yedidia-Clein has served as a diplomat in many countries, the achievement that stands out is her work coordinating Israel’s response to the massive earthquake in Turkey, where she was posted in 1999. “At three in the morning, I was woken up by the earth shattering and shaking.” Immediately, Israel sent civilian and military teams to help. “They used Israeli engineering ingenuity and chutzpah to get to places it should have been impossible to reach, such as taking a boat down a river because the roads weren’t accessible.”

In addition to the many skills and “inner strengths” she has acquired throughout her career, Yedidia-Clein says that a diplomat’s most important quality is honesty. “It’s important to have people trust you and that means that you have to speak the truth,” she explains. “Israel is a country with problems like every other country in the world, whether we’re talking about migrant workers or our issues with the Palestinians or anything in between. The main thing is to show that we recognize our problems, and we’re doing our best to solve them.”

 

Rony Yedidia-Clein

At the Heart of Global Change

Ehud Eitam, Israel’s Consul General in Istanbul, another TAU graduate, boasts a diplomatic career of nearly 35 years. Prior to his current posting, he served as Israel’s Ambassador to Costa Rica and Peru, among other postings. Even after so much time, he still finds his job fascinating. “From the first stages on the job, you work directly with the top echelons of other countries,” he says. “You find yourself in the middle of huge and meaningful things.”

He recalls when, during one of his postings, anti-Israel groups in Latin America attempted to prevent an Israeli company from winning a lucrative tender. The public pressure was so intense that Shimon Peres, then Foreign Minister, and Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s current President and then Communications Minister, got involved. The campaign culminated with Eitam appearing on a popular TV talk show, hosted by a local Palestinian. He knew that the interview would determine the campaign’s fate. Ultimately, the Israeli company won the tender, and Eitam views the episode as a tipping point in garnering more legitimacy for Israel in the region.

One of his biggest achievements was during his first posting in Helsinki in the late 1980s. Finland had become a transit station for Jews flooding out of the Soviet Union, and, finding himself at a milestone of Jewish history, he became involved in many facets—economic, political, security and logistical.

Eitam cites David Ben-Gurion who said that all diplomats wear two hats—as representatives of the State of Israel and of the Jewish community. “You have to make important practical decisions that could have wide-ranging consequences for the Jewish people as a whole.”

Subsequently, Eitam established the Israeli Embassy in the Ukraine, one year after the country gained independence. He undertook the momentous task of building Israel’s ties with the country from scratch. His work there was especially significant because of the Ukraine’s rich and complicated past with the Jewish people; aliyah from the country was strong at the time, and Eitam facilitated and attended the first state visits between the countries’ leaders.

After he’d been working in the field for nearly 20 years, Eitam returned to academia to complete a master’s degree in security and diplomacy at TAU. His studies allowed to him to gain insights on the vast experience he’d accrued, alongside other experienced professionals. He recalls courses with Profs. Nissan Oren and Azar Gat as well as Major Gen. (Ret.) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, which is an “experience in and of itself.” He was able to apply this knowledge in his subsequent positions.

Eitam, Ronen and Yedidia-Clein are among thousands of TAU alumni who are members of TAU’s Alumni Organization, headed by Sigalit Ben Hayoun. The Organizaton’s goal is to leverage the influence of TAU alumni through shared knowledge and opportunities.

And like Ronen and Yedidia-Clein, Eitam concludes that his main motivation to serve as a diplomat is Zionism. For Ronen, this same deep-rooted ideology means that he has fulfilled her childhood dream of tikkun olam. “I think representing Israel, changing one opinion at a time, is changing the world.”

 

Ehud Eitam with the Japanese Consul and his wife

By Melanie Takefman

Featured image: Rony Yedidia-Clein (center, in white) in Rishikesh, during the Indian holiday of Holi.

Related posts

The Magnificent TAU Trees

January 16, 2022

For the 1st time at an Israeli university: Air and Space Power Center

January 4, 2022

First Anniversary of Morocco-USA-Israel Agreement

December 28, 2021

TAU Students Racing Towards a Greener Campus

December 21, 2021

TAU and Goethe University Establish Joint Center for Interfaith Studies

December 19, 2021

TAU Ventures Raises $50M to Boost Israeli Startups

December 12, 2021

Coexistence – Israel’s Inevitable Faith

December 6, 2021

Cybermania

November 30, 2021

Tel Aviv University and Rutgers University Strengthen Ties

November 29, 2021

TAU’s Tisch Film School Among Global Best

November 29, 2021

TAU 8th in World for Entrepreneurship

November 29, 2021

Climate Action: From Campus to Glasgow

November 26, 2021

TAU: First Israeli University to Launch Online MBA

November 18, 2021

Feeling at Home in Tanzania

November 13, 2021

Revisiting the Tel Aviv Zoo

November 12, 2021

TAU Initiates Model for Carbon Neutrality

November 11, 2021

Britain and Israel Team Up on Challenge of Healthy Ageing

November 10, 2021

Meet the New Academic Power Couple

November 10, 2021

TAU Launches Cutting-Edge Center for Innovation Labs

November 3, 2021

From Law and Education to Nursing

November 3, 2021

394 TAU Researchers Among World’s Top 100,000

October 31, 2021

TAU 5th in World for Entrepreneurship

October 28, 2021

Israel-Indian academic ties boosted by visit of Indian Minister of External Affairs

October 26, 2021

“In Wars, there are Winners and Losers. In Peace, Everyone Wins”

October 20, 2021

This Week: TAU Board of Governors Meeting 2021

October 11, 2021

Be My Guest

September 19, 2021

Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel Receives the IEEE Leadership Award

August 13, 2021

See You at Naftali

July 22, 2021

Digital Learning: TAU 1st in Israel According to International Ranking

July 12, 2021

Celebrating 20 Years of Gender Studies

June 16, 2021

TAU Alumni Fill Ranks in Israel’s New Government

June 15, 2021

TAU and Columbia University Launch Dual Degree Program

May 31, 2021

Standing With The Tel Aviv University Community

May 13, 2021

Promoting Equality on Campus

May 12, 2021

“Arabic for Beginners” – TAU’s Most Popular Course

March 24, 2021

Add ‘Zoom w. Dubai University’ to Your Calendar

March 18, 2021

Prof. Zvi Galil, Former President of Tel Aviv University, is Ranked 7th Among the World’s Most Influential Computer Scientists

March 18, 2021

Dafna Meitar-Nechmad Tapped as Chair of TAU’s Board of Governors

March 8, 2021

TAU Launches Israel’s First Center for AI and Data Science

February 25, 2021

TAU Announces First of Its Kind International Programme

February 16, 2021

More than 20,000 participants on TAU’s Open Day 2021

February 15, 2021

Online Impact: TAU 1st in Israel, Among Top 100 Worldwide

February 9, 2021

Increased Diversity Secured On TAU Campus

February 4, 2021

See you in Dubai

January 17, 2021

Accelerating Jewish-Arab Entrepreneurship

January 10, 2021

2020 Kadar Ceremony Celebrates Pioneering Spirit and Hard Work

January 6, 2021

Two TAU Professors Win 2020 Nature Mentoring Award

December 28, 2020

Enemies: A Love Story

December 23, 2020

Twelve TAU Researchers among Top 50 in their Fields

December 20, 2020

Hollywood Legend Martin Scorsese Meets with TAU Students, Donors

December 14, 2020

Pursuing the Unknown

Copyright ©  Tel Aviv University Trust. All rights reserved.
Registered charity number 314179.