JLife caught up with in-demand diplomat Rony Yedidia-Clein, director of public diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel in London, on her recent trip to Leeds.
Fresh from taking part in an Afternoon to Celebrate Israel, a gathering to commemorate Israel’s 69th birthday, Rony Yedidia-Clein, director of public diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel in London, delivered an insightful UK Israel Business (UKIB) breakfast talk on Palestinian prisoners in Israel, hosted by Blacks Solicitors. JLife sat down for a chat with Rony afterwards to talk about her impressive career and find out what she loves most about living in the UK.
Having worked in cultural hubs across the world in various diplomatic roles during her distinguished career, Rony took up her present post in London in 2013, but her stint in the UK will soon be coming to an end: “My posting will be over on 31st July and I am going back to Israel,” says Rony, but her time on UK soil has been fruitful. The Public Diplomacy Department of the embassy aims to bridge the gap between the UK and Israel with outreach to a wide range of establishments, such as universities, synagogues, mosques, churches, local and national leadership and beyond.
“I think the crux of my job is showing how great Israel is. What I try to do is make friends for Israel and a big part of my job over the past four years has been helping all these new friends, organisations which have sprouted up all around the country.
“In Leeds there is Yorkshire Friends of Israel but there are others in the North West and in Scotland,” she continues. “There are groups around the country which didn’t exist four years ago, so we’ve helped a little bit with that. The crux of my job is helping our friends find their voice, that’s the way I’d define it.”
Rony may be returning to Israel, but the graduate of Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, insists there is lots to look forward to in regards to exposure of Israeli culture in the UK.
“Israeli culture has become prominent here, very vibrant and we are very proud of what we are doing here. Right now we have two Israeli authors on the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction, which is amazing. One is David Grossman for A Horse Walks Into A Bar and the other is Amos Oz for Judas.
“We have an Israeli singer who is starring in a production in London [at the National Theatre] called Salomé and in the autumn there will be an amazing Israeli culture festival called Tel Aviv Comes to London, which is going to bring all sorts of music and theatre.”
When quizzed on how Israel is portrayed in the vast majority of the UK media, Rony says: “The embassy has a spokesperson department which is dedicated to both giving the message to the media and monitoring how it is conveyed within the British media. Our spokesman is very good at making sure those headlines and stories are accurate in portraying Israel and I think he has done a very good job at pointing out the inaccuracies.
“There is still a long way to go but we as an embassy and our friends around the UK are very vigilant about making sure that we are portrayed properly and what we’ve seen more and more over the past few years is the showing of a different side of Israel; its diverse culture, fantastic business opportunities, tourism and culinary field, which it has become so famous for in the UK. I think the thing we are most famous for is our chefs!”
Rony’s diplomatic career has taken her to some of the most intriguing destinations around the globe, as she tells us: “This is my fourth posting and I’ve [previously] been posted to Istanbul, Moscow, Boston and now London. I’ve really enjoyed travelling around the UK and going up, it’s one of my favourites.” When asked to narrow down a particular favourite location, she continues: “I couldn’t pick. The thing with my lifestyle is that I get to live in these places, each of which has its own unique properties. Istanbul was very exotic, but Moscow was such a different type of place from everywhere else in the world – you can sense the history there.
“Boston for me, since I grew up in the States, felt a little bit like coming home. I think Boston is a very unique city in America as well – it’s very European as opposed to other cities. And then London is just the centre of so much in the world – the culture, the business and diplomacy. It’s a very, very important city and so it has been fantastic.”
Rony divulges more about her Anglo adventures, revealing a fondness for Leeds as well: “I love the English countryside and [have loved] just wandering around Leeds the last couple of days, the outskirts of Leeds which are so green and so beautiful. The Afternoon to Celebrate Israel was at Gateways School and that’s surrounded by fields and forests and lakes. It is stunning, I really loved it.”
As for what the future holds for Rony as her time in the UK draws to a close, the experienced diplomat states that she hopes her next position will involve helping Jewish communities around the world, and finishes with her thoughts about returning home:“I think being away from Israel makes me love [it] even more. I miss it. Since I do have to stand up and defend it all the time it does make me feel more connected.”