ESRA Magazine
ESRAmagazine categories

Confronting BDS Activists - Ishmael Khaldi

Host Joseph Beenstock, guest speaker Ishmael Khaldi, Terry Shlomo, Chairperson, ESRA Ramat Aviv Branch, and Lawrence Bertfield, a member of ESRA Executive and Chair of Fundraising. Photos: Bobbi Vendriger and Suzanne Naimer

Recently seventy five ESRA members met in the lovely home of Joseph Beenstock and gave a rousing welcome to our guest speaker, Ishmael Khaldi, Israel's first Bedouin diplomat.

Mr. Khaldi grabbed our attention from his first words, with his youthful enthusiasm and his charming manner. He tells a remarkable story of transformation, from his modest village roots to his triumph as a diplomat and a voice of reason in the Middle East. His gift for sharing his interesting personal story kept us riveted.

Ishmael Khaldi was born in Khawaled, a village near Haifa. He is the third of eleven children. Until the age of eight, he and his family lived in a Bedouin tent. He tended flocks of sheep and walked six kilometers to attend school. The education of his children was a very important goal for Ishmael's father.

His family, for many years, had close ties with their Jewish neighbors who lived on the kibbutzim nearby. The relationship went back to the days of the early Zionist pioneers from Eastern Europe, who settled in the Galilee region in the 1920s. Ishmael worked in the kibbutzim, as did his grandmother. She learned to speak Yiddish and was able to communicate with members of the kibbutz in their language.

Mr. Khaldi earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Haifa University and a master's degree in political science and international relations from Tel Aviv University. He served in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israel Police, and in the Israel Defense Forces, as a political analyst.

Ishmael Khaldi initiated a project called, "Hike and Learn with Bedouins in the Galilee" which brought thousands of young Jews to Khawaled to learn about Bedouin culture and history. He said these encounters inspired him to become a diplomat.

In 2004, he began working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry and was appointed to serve in San Francisco, California. In August 2009, he was appointed political advisor to Avigdor Lieberman. He described Mr. Lieberman as "one of the most realistic, but honest and direct politicians in Israel". His most recent posting was with Israel's Embassy in London where he had the challenging role of defending Israel in speeches to groups which represented BDS activists. He was shouted at and called names, but he held his ground and stood tall as a proud Israeli and Israeli Arab. He also spoke to many Jewish groups in schools and synagogues, who welcomed him and heard his personal story. 

An amusing moment ... Ishmael Khaldi speaking to an audience in Modiin

Ishmael Khaldi wrote a book entitled, A Shepherd's Journey: The Story of Israel's First Bedouin Diplomat. It is told with authenticity and passion. Anyone who doubts that Israel is a diverse and vibrant democracy should read this story. Where else but in Israel could a young Bedouin man go from being a shepherd and sleeping under the stars, to becoming a diplomat, representing his country?

After his talk, Mr. Khaldi remained to answer many questions and ended his presentation by inviting us to visit his village, to meet his family, and to learn about the rich culture and history of the Bedouin people of the Galilee.

A visit is being planned in the very near future. We hope that you will join us. Watch for an announcement from ESRA Ramat Aviv, as well as from the ESRA office.

Thanks to Terry Shlomo, Chairperson of ESRA Ramat Aviv, for arranging this inspirational program and to Joseph Beenstock for the use of his beautiful home. 



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Friday, 01 December 2023

Captcha Image


MagazineIsrael- 2019-homepage
There are pockets of coexistence
which kindle hope.
Old cities and very new cities with amazing stories
Find out about the Israeli art scene
The best tours in Israel with ESRA members