Here in Israel, we are excited to have you serve as America’s ambassador and our friend President Biden’s representative here in Israel. As a former OMB manager, secretary of the treasury, and White House chief of staff, you must be the most experienced American ever appointed to be American ambassador to Israel. Your level of experience and knowledge of the issues will help you serve as a better ambassador and aid in your successful integration into the region. I am confident that your love of America and Israel will enable you to strengthen the already robust relationship between these two great nations.
On a personal level I remember attending a White House Chanukah party during the Obama administration. The JLOTUS – Jewish Liaison of the United States, Jarrod Bernstein, had arranged for my wife Aliza and me to attend the party, and we flew from Florida to join the festivities. This was at a time when there was only one Chanukah party a season. President Obama was a gracious host and attended the party. After the entertainment, the president joined the guests for a lighting of the menorah and spoke, and then, along with the first lady, stayed and greeted the guests personally and took pictures with those who waited to meet him. I was more interested in meeting and speaking to you, the first Orthodox Jew to be appointed chief of staff. We spoke for almost 45 minutes, and although I’m sure you’ve since forgotten the conversation, I haven’t and am still grateful for your time.
A few months later, you visited Boca Raton, Florida and ate dinner at a local kosher restaurant. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg happened to be at the restaurant as well and I asked Rabbi Goldberg to invite you to speak to my students and teens at the Boca Raton Synagogue the next morning. Although you were busy, and didn’t have much time to spare, you accepted the invitation. You spoke to my awestruck students – you can see their spellbound faces in the picture accompanying this op-ed – and took their questions. They weren’t only excited to miss their first day of school, but to hear firsthand from you. Although those teens are now “all grown up” and many are married and parents themselves, they still remember that meeting with you.
In the time since meeting you at the White House and your meeting with my students, I have moved to Israel and live with my wife and my children (those still living at home) in Mitzpe Yericho, a mid-size Yishuv in Judea and Samaria. My wife serves as Mayor and I’m an educator and a syndicated columnist for different media outlets. I’m also a Citizen Liaison Volunteer for the American Embassy in Jerusalem and those roles give me a unique perspective on the US-Israel relationship.
The state of the US-Israel relationship is at one of its strongest points in its 75-year history. America and Israel have a unique relationship due to the values both nations share. Israel and America both believe in that all people are born equal. They both maintain that all people deserve the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. They share the values of education, security, and morality. America and Israel also share strategic goals, and unfortunately, many of the same enemies. Even before the war started, the relationship between the two countries had grown stronger. America recently invited Israel to join its visa-waiver program, and many more Israelis will soon take advantage of easier travel to America. While President Biden’s war-time visit to Israel overshadows it, Israelis will always remember the president’s visit to Israel last summer when he declared himself a Zionist.
Since the start of the war, Israeli couldn’t have asked for a greater friend than President Biden and the United States. From President Biden’s immediate declaration that America will stand with Israel, to his three speeches outlining the need for Israel to eliminate her enemies, President Biden has stuck by Israel when we needed it most. His war-time visit, a first for an American president, and his stationing of two carrier strike groups demonstrated that President Biden and America’s support for Israel wasn’t just talk. Israel is grateful for America’s support during this time.
Recent Ambassadors Shapiro, Friedman, and Nides were spectacular friends of Israel. They visited different communities throughout Israel demonstrating America’s commitment to Israel. Ambassador Nides excelled at meeting with all Israelis, whether they agreed with the current administration’s policies or not. He made sure to open his time and calendar to all who asked for his attention, and Israelis were greatly appreciative. Stephanie Hallett has played a crucial role during a time of great challenge for Israel, and we are grateful for her dedication to helping Israel at this precarious time.
Israelis of all stripes love welcoming guests, especially friends from far-away places. We’ve been impressed with your visits to communities in the South and your having met with families who’ve experienced loss, and hosted families that have relatives that have been taken hostage. Your focus on the Israeli people not just on the war demonstrates your commitment to Israel and her people. Being able to see past the politics of the day and hear the people themselves will make you a great ambassador.
American citizens in Israel are the second largest group of American ex-pats in the world. With over half a million American citizens from “The River to the Sea,” the need for consular services in Israel is greater in America’s Jerusalem embassy and the Tel Aviv branch than other embassies throughout the world. During the COVID pandemic consular services were severely limited and a three-year long backlog ensued. Due to the great efforts of the embassy consular officers and staff, that backlog has been made smaller, but still has a way to go until it gets to normal levels. As ambassador I hope you’ll pay attention to this area and lead the embassy staff to bring consular services to match the needs of American citizens in Israel.
No matter which administration has led America, there have always been disagreements between the two nations. Your time in the Obama administration was a period of unhealthy division between the two nations. Issues like the Iran deal, settlement expansion, and personality clashes characterized those years. We’re hoping that your time in Jerusalem as President Biden’s ambassador can be a time of unity and consensus between the two nations. Until this point the two nations have worked hand in hand and we anticipate it growing stronger while you are here in Israel.
We pray for your success, Mr. Ambassador. We know that your love of America and Israel, and your belief in the strengthening of the bonds between our nations will guide you as you represent America in Israel. We pray that God Divinely protects you, your family and your efforts here, and may you always be looking for the peace of Jerusalem.