Ishmael Khaldi is the name of the new Counsellor for Civil Society Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London. The 38-year old, dark-skinned Bedouin is a Muslim and the first of his tribe in the Foreign Service of the Jewish state. He spent the first 15 years of his life with his family in a big tent in Northern Galilee. Stipends to a secondary school in Haifa and university, years of further learning in the United States, the military and internal security service culminated in his current role as diplomat. The new Israeli Ambassador to Oslo is a Druze, a member of a tribe that is wide-spread in the Middle East, and which has behaved loyally towards Israel since the time of its foundation. His deputy is an Arab Christian, and Arab Muslims are present in high offices too.
Nine further Druzes, amongst them two women, are also diplomats. It is a significant fact that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, ill-reputed as saturnine reactionary and proponent of Apartheid, is here the representative of a policy that is more open.
I know from my own, ten year experience as Chairman of the Board of the Ben-Gurion University of Beer Sheva in the Negev how close and purposeful Israelis and Bedouins cooperate on the education of young "children of the desert". Originally the University, whose founding had been inspired by David Ben-Gurion, was intended for newly arrived immigrants who did not have the intellectual levels of the old-established citizens or did not bring with them relevant education from their parental homes. They were meant to be looked after in this new university in the South of the Negev which could not compete with the higher standards of the universities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
But something different happened: As, on the one hand, a world-renowned hospital for tropical diseases developed in Beer Sheva, and on the other hand the best scientists in this area did research in nuclear science the level of existing qualified teachers rose to such an extent that the young university soon made a name for itself in the country and the world. Thus not only students from all over Israel but also the Bedouins benefited. Founder of the state, David Ben-Gurion, who spend the last years of his life in a kibbutz in the middle of the Negev, once told me: "Our ancestors lived in tents too. I wish for nothing more than that our neighbours strive for and acquire the best: knowledge."
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