Jerusalem's 'foreign minister' Fleur Hassan-Nahoum: Jews are one tribe

#44: Fleur Hassan-Nahoum

Hassan-Nahoum Fleur (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hassan-Nahoum Fleur
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For the first time in its modern history, Jerusalem has its own Foreign Minister. Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum – who was born in Gibraltar, is a native Spanish speaker, spent years in England and speaks fluent English with a beautiful British accent – holds the municipal “foreign-ministry portfolio,” and she loves every moment.
Hassan-Nahoum is the daughter of Sir Joshua Abraham Hassan, the first mayor and prime minister of Gibraltar. She made aliyah with her husband in 2001 and was recruited by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and later, by the Odessa-based Tikva Children’s Home, to establish an International Relations Department based in Israel. She also founded Message Experts, using her experience as a presenter, barrister and fund-raiser to help organizations and individuals reach their goals through effective communication.
For Hassan-Nahoum, Jerusalem not only the capital of the world’s only Jewish state – it’s also the center of the world.
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“Because of its unique demography, [Jerusalem] is also the place where all the issues of the Middle East are going to be solved,” Hassan-Nahoum told The Jerusalem Post. “Jerusalem is the laboratory for the solutions of the challenges in our country, and the problems in the entire region, and of course, in the Jewish world.”
Hassan-Nahoum is one of three members of Mayor Moshe Lion’s coalition within the Jerusalem City Council who came from lists that are not on the political right-wing. She was originally president of Yerushalmim, a local list which faded away more than a year ago.
During the last municipal campaign, she was No. 2 on mayoral candidate Ze’ev Elkin’s list. Elkin eventually lost to Lion, but Lion identified her capacities in developing international relationships – rarely focused on at City Hall – and added her to his coalition.
“I see myself as a representative of Jerusalem in the world,” Hassan-Nahoum said. “The image of Jerusalem is extremely important – it has the image of the diversity, of the innovations we make here in many fields – but it is innovative in how we create a shared society. Jerusalem is the beating soul of the whole country.”
Hassan-Nahoum says that considering Diaspora Jews in decision-making is important to her in her role.
“I feel that I am one of the only people in the municipality who gets that we have a responsibility to Jews in the Diaspora,” Hassan-Nahoum said. “I understand the sensitivities and what it’s like to live as a Jewish minority with its difficulties and dilemmas.”
Hassan-Nahoum emphasizes on many occasions how growing up bilingual and between different outlooks and cultures has influenced her, as she was born in Gibraltar and lived in England for nine years. She later married a Sephardic man whose family is originally from Iraq and has lived in India and England. As such, she says, she can respect Arab culture – a crucial asset for representing the city where more than one-third of the population is Arab.
When asked how she convinces non-Jews that the city should remain united, as she believes, Hassan-Nahoum does not hesitate a second.
“Why did [King David] make Jerusalem his capital? He chose it because it never belonged to one tribe,” Hassan-Nahoum answered. “The DNA of Jerusalem is very diverse. We have immigrants here from every part of the world. We have different religions. We have different people who see Jerusalem as part of their DNA.”
In regards to more earthly issues about Jerusalem, Hassan-Nahoum points out that despite becoming the largest city in the country, Jerusalem has maintained some of it’s original flavor.
“It still feels like a village, because we feel like we’re all in this together,” she said.
As more states recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and opt to move their embassies to the city, Hassan-Nahoum’s role as the city’s foreign minister has expanded. She maintains an active present right after the diplomatic decision has been made so she can facilitate and establish necessary ties with foreign representatives.
When it comes to local issues, especially the issue of hardships forimmigrants who chose Jerusalem as their new home, Hassan-Nahoum remarks that since Israel is a country of immigrants, such problems sound strange to her.
“We’re one family; the Jewish people are one tribe,” Hassan-Nahoum said. “New immigrants have a very important role to play in the continuing development of the State and Jerusalem. We bring with us insights that perhaps have been lost by being a Jewish majority for so long.”