As far as I know, we’ve never had a US ambassador to Israel quite like Daniel
Shapiro, who dove into Israeli life with a passion.
At times he can be
seen at the beach (usually in Herzliya), eating a felafel on the street, wearing
a shtreimel and dancing at a haredi rabbi’s wedding, or out hiking with his
family. He has been busy absorbing the smells, sights and people, all of which
he does modestly and with a smile.
Shapiro, 44, is a Reform Jew married
to Julie, who is one year older than him.
They have three
daughters.What’s it like to move from Washington to Herzliya?
“I’m having a great time. We have been very warmly welcomed. Israel is an
extremely family-friendly place to live and we feel quite comfortable
“Now that we live here, we can more easily understand why Israelis
say they feel claustrophobic as a result of being surrounded on all sides. When
you live in the US and just read about it in the paper, it’s impossible to
really understand this. We feel this tension even though we are diplomats and
live within a bubble.”How are your girls getting along?
Julie: “They all
speak Hebrew – two of them quite fluently. They attend local Israeli schools,
study hard and are enjoying life here immensely. They’re very
Dan: “They’ve completely integrated into Israeli youth
culture.”Is that good or bad?
(The two laugh.) Dan: “I’m not sure, but
it makes them feel like this is home.
They’re very comfortable and they
behave just like Israeli children do.
“For the most part, this is great.
Israeli society is very focused on children. I would even go so far as to say
that the children are the ones running the show around here. And my children
have toed the line in this respect – they are as proud and assertive as other
Granted, sometimes we need to make decisions as
American parents and impose some law and order.”Do Israeli and American
families have different ideas about safety?
Dan: “Yes, totally. Most Israeli
families allow their kids much more independence and feel much more comfortable
living this way than most Americans we know. It’s a good feeling.
is very focused on children, which makes it a safer place for children to
live.”So if we’re already on the subject of safety, how do you feel
knowing that Syrian President Bashar Assad could shoot chemical missiles at
Julie: “In this respect I’ve become a bit Israeli myself, since this
doesn’t really worry me. When we arrived here two years ago, I was a little
concerned. But you get used to it. Israelis have been living this way their
entire lives. For the time being, I am not worried.”
Dan: “We’ve adapted
well and learned what it takes to be ready and be capable of dealing with the
“Last November, when Operation Pillar of Defense began and
missiles began landing on Israeli soil, Julie took the kids down to the bomb
shelter so they could see what it was like and get used to it. She put some toys
down there, so that their first time going there wouldn’t be during an
“And the girls have accepted the situation well. We’ve been
lucky and so far there haven’t been any air-raid sirens in
Julie: “The first dilemma we encountered was right after we
arrived in Israel. We were scheduled to host a formal dinner here, but then
there was a terrorist attack with casualties on the highway in the Negev, and I
wondered if we should cancel it. But we were instructed not to cancel it. They
told us that in Israel, life goes on as usual. That was our first lesson in how
Israelis deal with difficult situations.”And how are the girls dealing
with such incidents? Are they resilient like Israeli children?
Julie: “I haven’t
noticed any symptoms of anxiety or anything like that. They had a few drills at
their school last year, and they didn’t have any problems.”Do you enjoy
Israeli culture? Music? Entertainment? Gossip?
Dan: “We just got back from an
Idan Raichel concert. He’s amazing. I love [singer] Shlomo Artzi,
too. And I’m also a big Eyal Golan fan.”You’ve got to be kidding!
Dan: “No, not at all. And we keep in touch; we send each other text
He’s a great guy.”Have you been following what’s going
on with the Women of the Wall?
Dan: “We’ve been following activity surrounding
Women of the Wall. Did you know that Julie participated in one of the first
groups that founded the organization in 1988- 1989, when we were studying at the
Really? No, I did not know that. You’ve just knocked me off
Julie: “Yes, it was right at the inception of the
group. The first international conference for Jewish women was held in
December 1988.”So, Julie, are you still a member of Women of the Wall?
Julie: “Don’t put that in the headline! I was an active participant in the early
stages because I was in Israel.
I believe that the Western Wall is a
significant site – and not just for Jews in Israel. Jews all over the world
believe that it’s holy. I don’t know if all of the Jews in Israel feel that way,
but Jews all over the world do.”
Dan: “The connection between the
American Jewish community and Israel is part of the support network between the
two countries, and has significant strategic importance. It is our aim to
refrain from harming the US-Israel relationship and to encourage feelings of a
common purpose and future. Issues concerning the Western Wall could
affect the US-Israel relationship.”Translated by Hannah Hochner.
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