Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

February 2, 2013

Deputy Consul General of Israel addresses Kiwanis

AMERICUS — At Friday’s meeting of the Americus Kiwanis Club, members and guests heard an interesting program from the Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southeast United States, Sharon Kabalo.

Kabalo touched on a wide range of topics concerning the nation of Israel and its relationship with other Middle Eastern countries and the United States.

She began by saying the Consul General’s Office works to strengthen relationships with the U.S. on a regional level with the small office in Atlanta working  with the state governments, economic development groups and universities in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“We are in a time of change in Israel,” Kobalo said, pointing out that her nation just conducted elections.

She said the parliamentary style of democracy allows for numerous parties.

“I think in this last elections system we had about 30 parties,” she said.

Israel, like the United States, is an immigrant society, with 80 percent of the population, according to Kabalo, made up of people from people all over the world, who practice the Jewish faith. The majority come from Europe, then the U.S., then the former Soviet Union, but she said her family was from Aleppo, Syria, and fled to Israel in 1948. Her husband’s family came from Morocco.

Kobalo said that not all Israelis are Jewish, but also there are small minority groups, including Christians, “surprisingly” the most highly educated group in Israel’s demography. She perceives immigration as being a point of “major common ground” between the Israel and the U.S.

She said the intense political climate in Israel is undergoing a changing process with an emerging leader of a major party being a journalist and writer. He is introducing ideas of building a social identity for Israel, a nation where security has always been the major issue that influences how people vote.

“The second issue,” Kobalo said, “is who are we?”

“What is our obligation of our citizens to our country and vice versa?”

Kabalo also addressed “the neighborhood” where Israel resides.

“It’s a crazy one, to say the least,” she said. “We’re the only real democracy in the region.”

She said the Arab Spring is more of a winter with Israelis mixed feelings about the movement, but primarily concern.

“We want them to have democracy,” Kabalo said.

She said she believes it will be a very long process and Israel’s concern is that it will not  be a target of public persuasion by the quickly changing governments of its Middle East neighbors. She said Israel’s stance toward the changes taking place is to not to get involved and hope for the best.

She also addressed what she referred to as the “big elephant in the room,” Iran.

“Iran is a major power, a big concern for us,” she asserted, stating that her reason for growing concern is Iran’s missile capabilities cover western Europe and they are working on missiles that could reach a coastal region of the U.S. Resources are spent on developing nuclear weapons and not on the welfare of the people or creating a better society, which gives Kabalo reason to call the Iranian people “victims of their own regime.”

Deputy Consul General Sharon Kabalo was appointed to serve at the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast in August 2008. She has been a part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for since 1998, stationed both in Israel and abroad. During her career she has served as the Second Secretary to the Israeli mission in San José, Costa Rica. She served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist Israelis in high risk situations abroad, and later served as the Ministry’s Coordinator of Academic Affairs.

 Kabalo studied at Hebrew University, where she holds a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and linguistics, as well as a master of arts in Jewish philosophy specializing in the research of mysticism.

The Deputy Consul General is a native of Jerusalem and currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and three sons.

 

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