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Save Our Consulate

November 6, 2013
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Israeli Consul General Yaron Sideman

Israel’s diplomatic mission in Philadelphia is on the chopping block and it’s up to our community to try to save it.

Although rumors have been flying for weeks, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has confirmed to the Exponent that the future of the Israeli Consulate to the Mid-Atlantic region, which serves six states, but first and foremost our area, is being debated.

Ironically, the deliberations coincide with the first Philadelphia mayoral mission to Israel, facilitated in no small part by the Israeli consulate. Mayor Michael Nutter’s aides say he will raise the issue with officials while in the Jewish state. We urge him to do so and to makes unequivocally clear why the Israeli consulate is so vital to our region.

The debate also coincides with the start of the annual Israeli JazzPhest in Philadelphia, just one example of a cultural bonus that the consulate brings to our area.

The bottom line is that an official Israeli address in town helps drive the economic, academic and cultural ties that benefit both Philadelphia and Israel. And make no mistake, a major function of the Israeli consulate is to foster relations with the local Jewish community, sorely needed at a time when particularly younger Jews feel less connected to the Jewish state.

We understand that the Israeli government is grappling with the same grim budgetary realities that confront most nations. And we certainly applaud efforts to develop and expand relations in other parts of the world. Such relations, especially in places like China, where the Foreign Ministry apparently wants to expand its diplomatic presence at the possible expense of Philadelphia, are critical to Israel’s economic and diplomatic growth.

But let’s not sacrifice one fine mission for another. As the acting foreign minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have the final say on whether the Philadelphia consulate stays or goes. We could appeal to him on sentimental grounds. After all, he spent his teen years here, attending Cheltenham High School, as the son of a visiting scholar. But sentimentality is not the reason to take a stand.

Local Jewish organizations — from the American Jewish Committee to the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — have written to Israeli officials to persuade them not to take the axe to Philadelphia.

But more must be done. Each of us should write to the prime minister on his website, find and like the Facebook page for “Save the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia,” and sign a petition on change.org. The loss of our Israeli consulate would be a blow to all of us.
 

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