Ishmael Khaldi, the first Bedouin Deputy Consul of Israel and the highest ranking Bedouin ever within Israel’s Foreign Ministry, spoke to over 800 people at ten different events organized by the Zionist Federation.
Khaldi talked about how he moved from his Bedouin village Khawalid where he had a four mile round trip walk to school every day, north east of Haifa, and graduated from being a Shepherd, through a Christian school in Haifa, to obtain a Degree at Haifa University in Political Science and masters at Tel Aviv University. Having served in the Israeli Border Police Force and as a Political Analyst for the IDF he then became the first Israeli Bedouin Diplomat in the Foreign Ministry and served as Deputy Consul in San Francisco from 2006-2009. Assignments included acting as translator for Clinton/Arafat talks, and speaking to the Arab Media during the Gaza disengagement. He explained how the Bedouins have served for a long time with Israeli Forces, even pre Israeli State together with Pal mach and Haganah in the early 40’s.
Khaldi’s visit to the UK began on Sunday 24th January where he spoke to Sixth Form students, all part of an Israel Advocacy Training programme. This programme was developed upon the request of sixth form students who all felt comfortable with their Jewish knowledge, but acknowledged that their Israel information could be improved. As the majority of students will be going to university in the next year or two, it is essential that they are able to learn the facts and tools to be able to speak up for, and defend Israel where necessary, and also to have the ability to sing Israel’s praises the rest of the time.
Ishmael gathered a crowd of a hundred at a joint event with EDRS (Edgware Reform Synagogue) and MNS (Middlesex New Synagogue), a crowd of sixty in Leicester, a crowd of 70 at Muswell Hill Synagogue and a crowd of over 130 in South Manchester.
However, Khaldi did not only speak to Jewish communities. He also spent a lot of time on University Campus’s speaking at events with both Jewish and non-Jewish Audiences. This was of vital importance as it demonstrated to many how Israel is a democratic state and not just a Jewish State. Khaldi successfully defended the concept of the two state solution and Israel on its democratic values. While not dwelling on Israel's current level of liberal democratic values, he made a point of stating what we all believe; that Israel, like most democracies is not perfect, but strives to be "the best of the best bunch." The audiences on campus left the lecture theatre’s in the knowledge that for all its faults, perhaps the democracy of Israel is like ours; not perfect, but amongst the best of the best.
Ishmael spoke at LSE (London School of Economics), SOAS (School of African Studies), and to over 100 students in Birmingham, and to another 100 students in Leeds University. Sadly Ishmael’s talk at Leeds University was met by twenty protests from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), who at one point tried to storm the room. Despite the protesters, and after a barrage of speakers on campus, all claiming that Israel is a racist and apartheid state - courtesy of The Friends of Palestine Society, Khaldi's arrival was a breath of fresh air. At SOAS some of the students in audience who had extremely negative views about Israel, could not believe that an Israeli Arab Muslim was saying that he loves his country and that most of the Palestinian problems are of their own making.
Extremely interesting questions followed all talks, and in every instance had to be cut short due to a lack of time. Extremely worthwhile for all.