Brazil in Israel

A diplomatic couple is working to counter Israel's negative international image. And they'd like locals to know there's more to their country than carnival in Rio.

living room brazil 88 248 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
living room brazil 88 248
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
'Before the prime minister had finished the sentence offering me the Israel posting, I had already accepted," says Pedro Motta Pinto Coelho, the Brazilian ambassador who, together with his wife, Moira, also a diplomat, has been his country's envoy here for the last two years. The couple spent several years in the Foreign Office in Brasilia, where he was under-secretary for political affairs with responsibility for Middle East relations, so when he got the chance to come here he was delighted. He feels strongly that his mission is to show a different perspective of Israeli society than the one his countrymen receive through the often negative news programs, and at the same time to portray an accurate picture of Brazil to Israelis who seem to think the country begins and ends with the carnival of Rio. "Sometimes you don't know what each country has to offer," he says. "People get the impression that it is dangerous, both here and in Brazil, but we show that the beaches here are beautiful, the cultural life is vibrant and the true picture is very different from the one people see in the media." "We have a very good trade relationship with each other," he tells me as we sit in the elegant lounge of his Herzliya Pituah home, while the maid serves drinks and delicious sushi snacks. "We have almost $2 billion of trade between our two countries. We export sports clothing, kosher meat, food items. We buy fertilizer from the Dead Sea and we have exchanges in hi-tech and avionics." He also believes in the peace process and, while acknowledging that the situation is complex, feels strongly that a solution is possible. With a very large Brazilian community of 50,000 people here, plus between 4,000 and 5,000 Brazilians in the territories, the embassy is kept busy. Part of Moira's job, as minister/counselor, is to organize cultural activities and bring the best of Brazilian music to Israel. Several groups performing "chor" music - a light Brazilian music based on the samba that is enjoying a revival - have played here and given concerts which became very popular. "Israelis like Brazilian music," says Moira. "In Tel Aviv there is a bar on the beach which plays music every Friday afternoon. People come to listen and look at the group, and not at the sea." The house was built in the early 1980s and the ambassador thinks it is one of the oldest residences in the area. The front garden, with its long, narrow pool, can hold 300 people on Brazil's national day, September 7. The lounge is furnished with many antiques from Brazil, which reflect the European roots of the country. Through the side entrance, the visitor climbs steps to the door past flower beds full of nodding pansies, and an air conditioner unit cleverly camouflaged by a bamboo coating, into an entrance hall furnished with a magnificent marquetry secretaire. One turns right into the lounge where the walls are covered in different works of art, which all come from Brazil. On entering from the French windows the first thing to strike the eye is the abstract black and mustard oil painting by Amilcar de Castro, a towering figure in the Brazilian art world, who comes from the same region as the ambassador, Minas Gerais. The sitting areas, of which there are two, are furnished in pale gray leather or white linen with the glass-topped, pewter-colored coffee tables providing a unifying note. The highly polished parquet floor is covered with many different ethnic rugs, while in one corner stands a very ornate grand piano. The dining room is laid for the next dinner party, with Portuguese china and a splendid silver centerpiece with red candles set in silver candelabras matching the red place mats and napkins. On one wall several signed menus from high-class French restaurants have been framed and displayed. On my expressing surprise at this, the ambassador explains that he is a very keen chef and in fact often does the cooking for the frequent dinner parties. His speciality is pâté maison. As if this were not surprising enough, he is also an accomplished flutist, taking lessons here from a Philharmonic flutist, and has performed with an orchestra in Cyprus. Upstairs looking over the lounge is a book-lined den cum study where the ambassador and his wife watch television, read and where the music stand is set up for flute playing. The master bedroom has a magnificent bathroom with a sunken oval bath in mole brown with matching tiles, very '80s. I take my leave, replete with sushi, and feeling that Israel has two good friends who will one day go back to Brazil with very positive feelings about our country. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: