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Deputy ambassador - in Black and white

  • Israel
Israel’s new Deputy Ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black, may be a tough career woman in a predominantly male world, but make no mistake, there is nothing grey about this diminutive, young and dynamic woman.
by DIANE WOLFSON | Aug 10, 2016

PRETORIA

As the daughter of a career diplomat, she was born while her father was posted in the United States and she has lived in Canada, the UK and Australia.

From the age of nine till 13, she lived in the UK and that is where she met her future husband Elliot - and it is the country which has left the greatest impact on her.

Black then went to Australia to do her own shlichut during national service where she worked under Rabbi David Shaw who is now back in South Africa. She recalls that on arrival in Australia, she said she wanted to learn to speak with an Australian accent, only to be told that everyone there speaks with a South African accent! That was also where she had her first taste of biltong.

From the age of about four, Black remembers listening to her father give speeches on Israel and thought that this was what she wanted to do when she grew up. She also knew that she wanted to share this experience with her own children one day.

“I thought it would be terrible if my children grew up without a diplomat parent,” she says of a career that was so much part of her childhood.

With regard to being a woman in the diplomatic corps, Black says the Israeli Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to ensure that women can have fruitful careers. Previous cadet programmes had a 50:50 ratio of men to women with the last group being predominantly women.

“Israel has always been a very advanced country when it comes to women’s rights, starting with being one of the first countries to have a woman prime minister (in Golda Meir). There are many laws in place to assist mothers to be able to juggle work and childcare.”

Black is very excited about what the South African Jewish community does for Israel; it is uniquely involved with the State of Israel and has much historic support for Israel. 

She was welcomed by WIZO a few hours after her arrival in South Africa and is looking forward to contributing where possible. 

On BDS and its ilk, Black stresses that this area of public diplomacy is only one aspect they deal with. Additional budget has been approved for dealing with this issue as the embassy in Pretoria is recognised as being extremely active in these - and other - areas, such as agriculture, the economy and culture. 

Waiting for any possible changes in the attitude of the South African government after the municipal elections, Black says that Israel is always looking for any channels of co-operation and hopes to increase existing channels.  The embassy is ready for this.

As a typical Jewish mother, with a Polish father and Moroccan mother, her first impression on any country is through the food. Black finds the meals in South Africa diverse, spicy, strong and colourful and immediately sees this in the country itself. 

Much like her own style, she is a great cook (but insists her husband is even better) and her favourite dishes are a series of Moroccan salads and side dishes, which take up a great deal of time and ingredients to prepare.

Black was previously an informal educator in an all-girls school and her classes, essentially aimed at young teenagers, were based on women empowerment mirrored in the Tanach.  

This is still close to her heart and, if nothing else, she would like to know that she is remembered by her students and her children for instilling in them that they can do anything they really want and how to deal with any difficulties that come their way.

After a long hard day at work, and once the children are in bed, you will probably find Black picking up her guitar while her husband Eli sits at the piano, making music together.

Says Black in conclusion: “It is special to me to represent not only Israel but Israeli women. I want to express that the connection between Israel and the Jewish community is so important and I look forward to being a strong bridge connecting the two.”  

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