I recently wrote my last speech as the speechwriter for Israel’s delegation to the United Nations. When I was done, I sat back and reminisced about my first week on the job when Noa, one of my new colleagues, came barreling into my office and, in the typically abrupt manner of an Israeli, demanded, “Why would you come here and work around the clock for the most unpopular country in the world?”
I had been staring dejectedly at the jam-packed speech schedule and her question did nothing to raise my spirits. It was only a few days into my new position, but I could see that working with Israelis was going to be an adjustment. My new colleagues were loud, stubborn, demanding, and had a habit of saying exactly what was on their minds. Most conversations could have been labeled #NoFilter.
Nonetheless, Noa had a point. We were not shortlisted to win any popularity contests in the global body. Representing Israel in the United Nations often felt like representing a tofu burger at a Texas barbecue competition. It would have been bad enough to be silently scorned, but Israel, with just 0.1 percent of the world’s population and 0.0035 percent of the planetary landmass, consumes an overwhelming proportion of the global body’s criticisms.
In its last session, the General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions condemning Israel. The only other countries that were singled out for censure were Iran, Syria and North Korea, and each of these notorious human rights abusers merited just one condemnation apiece.
Objecting to this perverse treatment could easily have taken up all of my time, but there were also Middle Eastern affairs to keep up with. During my tenure at the Israeli mission, I saw the collapse of four nation states, faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, waves of Palestinian terrorism, stop and go nuclear negotiations, the Palestinian’s bid to join the International Criminal Court, the kidnapping and murder of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftalie, 50 days of war, and an attempt to push Palestinian statehood through the Security Council.
At the helm of Israel’s delegation to the United Nations is Ron Prosor. A seasoned diplomat known for his quick wit and comical quips, Ambassador Prosor is unfazed by the efforts of a handful of member states to isolate and assail the Jewish state. When the going got tough, his direction was clear. Stand taller, work harder, and speak louder because we represent one of the freest and most democratic nations in the world, and certainly the freest and most democratic country in the Middle East.
One need not be a supporter of Israeli policies to appreciate that standing up for Israel means standing up for freedom, equality, justice, and compassion. Disagree? Where else in the region could a Druze Arab serve as Acting President and a Christian Arab serves on the Supreme Court of Justice? Where else could women preside over each of the executive, legislature, and judiciary branches of government? And where else in the Middle East can two men embrace under a rainbow flag and nobody bats an eye?
Israel isn’t just a country, it’s the embodiment of our values. These values are manifest in Israel’s honest judiciary, free press, free elections, free speech, and the freedom to practice any religion or no religion at all.
Israel isn’t just a nation, it’s the living expression of our ideals. Per capita, Israel produces more scientific papers, has the largest number of startup companies, and the highest ratio of university degrees of any nation. The IDF has a special unit for people on the autism spectrum and bank notes are printed with braille to assist the blind.
Israel isn’t just a geographic entity, it’s our history. In Israel, you can see the valley where David battled Goliath, the hills where Isaiah prophesied about beating our swords into plowshares, and the mountains where Elijah saw a vision of peace.
Israel isn’t just another state, it’s the world’s one and only Jewish state. Leading up to the holidays, buses in Israel display digital messages that read “chag sameach.” May 13 has been designated International Hummus Day. The glue on Israeli envelopes and stamps is kosher. Children dress up as Jewish superheroes like Queen Esther and Judah the Maccabee.
Israelis aren’t just a nationality, they are family. Every soldier is our soldier. We feel personally connected to and responsible for every one of them. Israeli grandmothers stop parents on the street to give advice and offer shidduchs with youngsters they sit next to on the bus. Taxi drivers, waiters, and the guy who plops down beside you at the beach are all eager to share their insights on politics and philosophy.
I could not be prouder to have represented Israel these last few years. I know that in the future I will have jobs where the pay is better, the hours are shorter, and the colleagues less mercurial, but nothing will match the pride of going to work every day to represent the State of Israel. I’m going to miss the excitement. I’m going to miss being in the fight. I may even miss the balagan.