After years of battling cancer, last week Ambassador Chen Ivri Apter succumbed
to the disease and deprived us in Israel of his charm and many
The State of Israel lost an experienced diplomat, a committed
Zionist and a proud Jew. I purposely placed the descriptions in this order,
because I believe that everything my former colleague did professionally and
interpersonally was in line with a firm commitment to Judaism.
I had the
honor to serve with Chen in the deputy foreign minister’s office for more than
two years. On every official overseas trip that we took, Chen’s first point of
business upon arrival at our hotel would be to seek out the nearest minyan
(quorum of 10 Jewish men) for shacharit (morning prayers). Even if it meant
waking up at an ungodly hour and traveling large distances, sometimes on foot,
Chen would ensure that prayed with a minyan of local Jews.
One would see
first-hand the effect Chen had on people when, sometimes later in the trip, we
would hold a function with the local Jewish community or visit the synagogue.
Those who attended the minyan would greet Chen as an old and dear friend, and
those few minutes that Chen took to chat with his fellow congregants after
service had a lasting effect. This was Chen; all who knew him were left with a
lasting impression of his goodness and sincerity.
Even though he had been
Israel’s ambassador to the Baltic Nations, adviser to the prime minister and
senior adviser to the deputy foreign minister, Chen was an impeccably humble man
and generous of spirit.
A couple of years ago I was shown some pictures
of events that some in the Foreign Ministry would hold for those less fortunate,
whether in a hospital ward for children suffering with cancer or an old age
home. There was Chen in almost every picture happily playing his precious
accordion to the delight of all those who sat and listened.
never miss an opportunity to partake in a mitzvah and he was a prominent member
of our weekly chevrutah (study group) in the deputy foreign minister’s office.
In between meetings and on long journeys, either by plane or by car, Chen would
regale us with relevant lessons from the week’s parsha (Torah portion) or from
Whether religious or not, all would be fascinated with Chen’s
insights and depth of knowledge.
However, it was the way in which he
dealt with his cancer that was the greatest lesson for us all.
though I suspect he had known for a while that the cancer could not be beaten,
he would come to work with a smile on his face and partake in all of his duties
as thoroughly as possible. Even a few days before he passed away, Chen arrived
at the Foreign Ministry in a wheelchair, accompanied by his beloved wife, Dalia,
just to visit his office to attend to some of his papers. I suspect it was more
about visiting the ministry, that had been his professional home for the past
few decades, for the last time.
Even in his last hours, Chen remained
passionate and committed to his work. When Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon,
who was at his bedside in the hospital, told him that the conference on the
Jewish refugees from Arab countries that he had worked so hard towards was
finally going to take place the following week, Chen made a great effort,
stretched out his hand to clasp that of Ayalon and made as big a smile as he was
able to muster. His final task and project had been completed and now he was
able to leave us in peace.
Chen played a major role in the conference and
it was perfectly fitting that Deputy Minister Ayalon dedicated its success to
his friend and colleague. When many of the participants, who had been in regular
contact with Chen, heard of his passing there was a great deal of sadness in the
audience, not least on the part of Prof. Irwin Cotler, former Canadian justice
minister, who knew Chen when he served in our embassy in Ottawa.
his eulogy, attended by many Foreign Ministry colleagues and members of the
foreign diplomatic corps, Deputy Minister Ayalon spoke about Chen’s place at his
side in meetings giving him advice and dealing with all matters under his
purview with grace and calm. “Now I am sure he is sitting next to the heavenly
throne, patiently assisting those around him,” Deputy Minister Ayalon said. “God
wanted him there by his side, and I had to give up my dear colleague and friend
for a greater calling.”
Diplomacy was Chen’s calling during the more the
fiveand- a-half decades he spent on this earth. Diplomacy and furthering Israel
and the Jewish People’s place in the world was Chen’s passion and dedicated
He serves those who had the honor to know him as a great
model: a professional, a man with limitless patience, a committed family man and
a loyal Jew.
The writer served as an adviser to the foreign minister and
deputy foreign minister from 2009 to 2012.