An Embassy Is Only a Building

Excitement is raging in our country together with coronavirus and a heatwave, both responsible for too many deaths. It is the excitement of prospective new buildings (called embassies) to be added to crowded Jerusalem.

First it will be the embassy of the United Arab Emirates which greeted us with open friendly arms. It was followed by similar news from Serbia and Kosovo and most recently Malawi.

Sudan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia are still scratching heads to decide if Yes or if Not-Yet.

Diplomatic recognition is a great thing but does it really matter where the embassy is located? It is, after all, only a building, but a building that represents a government.

Since 1948, Israel and the United States among other nations have maintained strong diplomatic ties with one another for 72 years, all the time maintaining diplomatic embassies in Tel-Aviv. The move of the American Embassy to our capital Jerusalem is not quite one year old. And for 72 years diplomatic relations between the USA and Israel have never been stronger or better. Even from Tel-Aviv.

An embassy is only a building! But allegedly it is a building that represents a nation’s pride. To whom does it matter most?

I have never visited in Serbia or Kosovo nor Malawi. I would have slight difficulty in naming their capital cities let alone locating them on a map.

But if I should ever want (quite doubtfully) to visit those countries, would it matter to me if their respective embassies were located in Ramat Gan, Caesarea or Eilat? We have outstanding relations with Britain, Russia, France, Germany and China among other countries and none of their embassies are located in Jerusalem. To travel there in order to obtain a visitor’s visa is only a short bus ride away from Rishon Lezion. So who frankly gives a damn?

The answer is spelled only in one prominent 6 Hebrew letters or 9 in English—N E T A N Y A H U. It is his dream (not necessarily ours) which he spells out in 6 large English letters— L E G A C Y.

On one hand I would be honored to travel for a visitor’s visa to an embassy of the United Arab Republic no matter in which city of our country it was located. Without a map, I would find the building.

Embassies are easily recognized by their national flag flying from the top of the building.

Drooling Israelis who cannot travel take pleasure in a “selfie” standing in front of the foreign embassy.

A “selfie” of me shaking hands with a distinguished ambassador would be much more meaningful. But not being a camera addict I am forced to leave “selfies” to more knowledgeable people who might get a rise out of the photo for eternity.

I even asked someone if he would get a rise out of a “selfie” of himself posing near a famous object, building or person. He was not impressed with the idea. As he succinctly put it “bishvil ma? zeh lo davar kol kach gadol” What for? It’s not such a great thing.”

But for the sake of personal history, I suggested that a “selfie” can be a long-lasting memo. He should stand up and give a big smile. Hard ingrained stubborness runs through his veins which jerks his ego away from the pages of personal history left unwet by human fears.

Most of the newly proposed foreign embassies will have a purpose primarily to deal with governmental policies, military aid, oil and water and gas investments. I doubt very much that many Israeli tourists have plans for visits to Malawi or Kosovo.

Notwithstanding the yet un-formalized relations with foreign Middle East or African nations, it is estimated that more than 90% of Israeli foreign travel is to the USA or EU countries, looking forward eagerly to adding another initial to their future travel adventures – the UAE.

There will be much hullabaloo when buildings are opened in Jerusalem and are declared foreign embassies. However, it is what and who are inside that counts.

Otherwise it’s just another building on our landscape. “Selfie” or not !

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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