6 June 2020 - 15 Sivan 5780 - ט"ו סיון ה' אלפים תש"פ
One to One Interview
A diplomat speaks – former Israeli representative to the UN shares his insights Print E-mail

Jewish Times Asia sat down recently with former Israeli diplomat Ambassador Ron Prosor, who served in many positions, including as Israel’s 16th Permanent Representa- tive to the United Nations (UN) from 2011 to 2015. He made a short visit to Hong Kong in March to be the guest speaker at the UIA Dinner event.

Jewish Times Asia invited him to share some insights and personal perspectives about his experiences at the UN, and also to discuss Israel’s current rela- tions with various countries and regions around the world.

A delicate diplomatic dance

Ambassador Proser noted that during his tenure at the UN, there were some extraordinarily sensitive issues relating to Israel and how the UN operated, par- ticularly regarding how member states voted on UN resolutions.

With his customary wit and humour, Ambassador Prosor shared that working at the UN was sometimes like a soap opera or a drama, with good guys, bad guys and even some open trap doors, especially when it came to UN member states’ votes on particular topics and issues. For a small country such as Israel, this required extreme delicacy in attempting to persuade member states to vote fairly in some very heated debates. Even today, Is- rael is still definitely a hot potato at the UN.

At the UN, Ambassador Prosor held a series of notable positions, including Vice Presi- dent of the General Assembly and Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. He called for the first-ever General Assembly session on anti-Sem- itism, and oversaw the adoption of two landmark resolutions on entrepreneurship and agriculture that passed with an overwhelm- ing majority.

Dan Meridor moving thoughtfully Print E-mail

In early June, Jewish Times Asia was invited to interview Dan Meridor, former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, former Minister of Intelligence and also son of a former Knesset member.

Meridor hails from and extremely powerful and successful family. His father, Eliyahu Meridor was a member of the Knesset. His younger brother, Sallai Meridor was appointed Israeli ambassador to the US in 2006.

His son, Shaul Meridor, one of Dan and Liora Meridor’s four children, is the Deputy Director of the Allocation Branch at the Ministry of Finance and his nephew holds a senior position at the Trump Foundation.

Now free from his political roles, he opted to come to Hong Kong with his wife on an unofficial visit. Jewish Times Asia met with him in a private meeting room at the Conrad Hotel Hong Kong. Also in attendance was Ambassador Amikam Levy to Hong Kong.

Jewish Times Asia: What is the purpose of your visit to Hong Kong?

I am no longer a member of the government, I am free at last to do what I like. A few months ago the Consulate General invited me to Hong Kong because he felt it would be beneficial to give the Hong Kong Jewish Community the chance to meet Israeli visitors so I am now here for a four day visit. I am attending three or four large lunch engagements including giving a speech at the Israel Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Some events hosted by the Asia Society and a lunch with leading figures in the Hong Kong Jewish Community.

We have also met the Secretary of Justice. Plus I have had the chance to enjoy seeing parts of Hong Kong that I haven’t been able to see on previous visits and sampling the delicious cuisine. I particularly enjoyed visiting Stanley Market.

Jewish Times Asia: What impression has Hong Kong made on you both on this visit and from your official visits in the past?

Hong Kong is an extremely generous city. There is nowhere like Hong Kong. It is unique and interesting and this doesn’t surprise me as I knew this from my previous visits here. It is a melange of two cultures. The blend of British and Chinese culture is unique.

Compared to Europe and US, there is no weight of latent or simmering anti-semitism and the safety for Jewish families in Hong Kong is noticeable. Hong Kong is extremely pro-Israel. It sees Israel in a positive light and as a success story with its economic achievements, success in Science and Nobel Prize winners. Israel is highly appreciated by Asia.

Jewish Times Asia: Now that you no longer have an official political role, what are you doing with your time now?

I took on some pro-bono public functions in Israel and have also been offered positions in two law firms which I need to think carefully about over the coming weeks. I have been invited to lecture at Harvard University and I also now have time to focus on my seven grandchildren.

Jewish Times Asia: Alongside your political career you have also enjoyed a successful career in the legal profession. What areas did you specialise in?

I mainly focussed on constitutional law and human rights law alongside my political work but I was private contract lawyer before that. I have also worked in criminal law. As you can see, I did not focus on just one area of law, that wasn’t the custom in those days.

Outgoing Chief Rabbi visits Hong Kong for the last time with fond memories Print E-mail

Chief Rabbi of the UK and Commonwealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks and his wife Lady Elaine visited Hong Kong in mid-January for what is likely to be their final trip to the city before he retires from his role in September this year.

The Chief Rabbi has visited Hong Kong many times over the past fifteen years, his last visit being just last September. Before this current visit, his office specifically contacted Jewish Times Asia requesting an interview. We were particularly keen to take this opportunity to capture Lord Sacks’ feelings and memories of the Hong Kong Jewish Community and to see how he has observed the changes over the years.

Lord Sacks initially became involved with the Jewish Community of Hong Kong at the time of the restoration of the Ohel Leah Synagogue and the building of the Jewish Community Centre (JCC). The community looked to him for leadership during this time and he of course flew to Hong Kong for the opening of the JCC which he described as “sensational.”

He was also in Hong Kong for the completion of a new Sefer Torah and describes how he wanted this to be an event for the children rather than a traditional formal event. The memory of all the children and other community members dancing with the Sefer Torah from the JCC into the synagogue remains one of his Hong Kong highlights.

Looking to the future of the Hong Kong Jewish Community, the Chief Rabbi can only envisage success. He cannot speak highly enough of how hospitable they are to visitors from all over the world and that he sees Hong Kong as being in a unique strategic location. He firmly feels that the 21st century is going to be the “Asian Century” and with Hong Kong being a key city in Asia, the Jewish community is well placed to go from strength to strength.

Education has always been one of the major points of focus for the Chief Rabbi and he often declares that one of his most important achievements during his time in the role is that he has overseen more new Jewish schools being built in the UK in the past 20 years than at any other time in Anglo-Jewish history. When he first took on his role, 25% of Jewish children in Britain attended a Jewish school, now this figure is closer to 70%.
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