President Shimon Peres on Tuesday entered the private reception room in
Jerusalem’s King David Hotel where Israel’s ambassador-designate to Ethiopia,
Belyanesh Zevadia and her husband, Serkalem Adigeh, were waiting for a meeting
Zevadia described as the closing of a circle.
Peres had been foreign
minister when she was accepted as a cadet at the Foreign Ministry.
he went to her wedding, and now, before their meeting he signed the credentials
that she will present to Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis.
Ethiopia as a young girl,” she said, “and I am returning as an
More than that, she is Israel’s first Ethiopian-born
ambassador to be appointed to any country.
When it was announced last
February that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had appointed Zevadia as
Israel’s next ambassador to Ethiopia, the news caused quite a stir in the local
and African media.
Zevadia is the first Israeli of authentic African
descent to be sent back to the country of her birth as the ambassador of her
spiritual and now national homeland.
It is not that unusual for Israel to
send its envoys back to the countries from which they came. Nearly every Israeli
ambassador to Poland was actually born there. Yohanan Meroz, one of the founders
of the Foreign Ministry and an Israeli ambassador to Germany, was born in
Germany. Yehuda Avner, a former ambassador to the UK, was born in Britain and
Michael Oren, Israel’s current ambassador to the US, is American-
Liberman, when he appointed her early this year, said that he was
proud to be the first foreign minister to appoint an ambassador of Ethiopian
“The decision to appoint Belaynesh Zevadia as ambassador, beyond
the fact that she is a talented diplomat, conveys an important message to
Israeli society, which is currently dealing with the issue of racism towards
Ethiopians in Israel,” he said. “This appointment is particularly significant in
that it sends a message about fighting against discrimination.”
reminisced with Zevadia and her husband about his own visit to Ethiopia many
years ago with former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Col. Nahman Karni, at
which time they had met with Emperor Haile Selassi. Israel had been instrumental
in helping Ethiopia to establish its Air Force, Peres said.
came to Israel at age 17 within the framework of Youth Aliya and almost
immediately demonstrated her people skills by offering her services to the
Jewish Agency so that she could help other Ethiopian immigrants adapt to the
A graduate of the Hebrew University, with a BA in International
Relations and African Studies and an MA in African Studies, she joined the
Foreign Ministry in 1993 and has served in various diplomatic capacities in
Chicago and Houston.
Zevadia’s husband will also serve in the embassy in
Addis Ababa, working as a commercial attache. The couple has been busy in recent
weeks talking to potential Israeli investors in Ethiopia, and explaining to them
how much easier it will be for them to make headway when Amharic is the mother
tongue of both the ambassador and the commercial attaché.
that, Zevadia intends to focus on three specific areas in which Israel can be of
assistance to Ethiopia.
These include agriculture, water and
Peres concurred that these are important areas in helping the
Ethiopian population to climb out of the poverty that is retarding its
He told Zevadia that he was very proud of her, and that she was
returning to her roots not only as an ambassador but as a wife, a mother, a
university graduate and a person of goodwill who understands the traditions of
both Ethiopia and Israel and who knows how to bridge them.
her husband will be taking their three children with them: an 11-year-old and
What she would like most in her role as ambassador,
Zevadia told Peres, “is to be able to welcome my president to Ethiopia.”