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Reaching the Shores of Safety: An Interview with Ambassador Avi Granot

Various motives and ambitions drive our decisions and our paths in life; doing our best in whatever we are assigned to do is an important part of reaching the shores of safety. This is a story of a good friend of mine, Ambassador Avi Granot, who serves in the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Deputy Director General. He is also a great friend of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund. He says that his generation of young Israelis grew up with KKL-JNF as a Zionist organization; the ‘Blue Box’ was always in the class room at school.

 

Ambassador Avi Granot. Photo: Courtesy Avi Granot
Photo: Courtesy Avi Granot

 

I met Ambassador Granot first time in Helsinki when he was serving as an Israeli Ambassador in Helsinki  for four years during when I had started serving the Board of KKL Finland. I have come to know Ambassador Granot as a humble man. Currently he serves as the Head of the Africa Division and as the Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main responsibility of his department is to maintain Israel’s relations with the African continent including in the political, economic, military and strategic fields.

 

Ambassador Avi Granot (far right) with with President Tarja Halonen (2nd from right) during a tree planting ceremony at the Grove of Nations in Jerusalem in October 2010
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

 
It is not always easy to explain one's own career choices and path. Ambassador Granot starts by talking about his own personal background. Granot comes from a family of Holocaust survivors who were on Oskar Schindler's famous list. "When I was doing my military service in Israeli Army," he said, "one time my mother wanted to know what I wanted to do after I finished the army. Before I managed to give an answer, my father intervened and said to me that ‘It does not matter what you do as long as you do your best’. This was a personal reminder that whatever the issue is, you have to devote your best to your work. This has been my commitment to the legacy of my father.”
 
Ambassador Avi Granot has a long history of serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He describes his years at the service in the diplomatic corps, as “swimming with the stream which took him to the safe shores”. His diplomatic career began in the consulate Israeli Consulate in New York some thirty years ago. Ambassador Granot has an education in biology and in Jewish history.
 
The Art of Diplomacy: Israel has had many challenges already from the first day of its gaining independence in 1948. “Diplomacy, in the case of Israel, is even more needed, because it is about the survival of Israel. The State of Israel has survived and flourished because of what we have created through diplomatic ties. Diplomacy is the art of mediums or various interests; it is linking the different interests and finding the common ground. Diplomacy stands on its own feet."
 
“Survival in the long term does not depend only on your capacity defend yourself militarily, but first and foremost, it is about building bridges with other communities. For instance, North Korea has survived because of its might, but I would not call it a survivor", notes Ambassador Granot. 
“Therefore it is not only a question military might; it is about being a nation among other nations; it is about being exporter of various products. We don’t have oil or gold, but we have capacity to export products, knowhow, and food; we export many things.”
"Our bridges with the world are solid. Our institutions enjoy relations with the rest of the world. Israel is a country of immense success; being such a solid economy in spite of wars and various threats. Israel is the number one success story in the world. We should appreciate that, and not just look those that condemn us", says Ambassador Granot.
 
Representatives of Israeli Spirit: "Life in Israel is absolutely wonderful; of course there are also difficulties. Israeli science, art, initiative and agricultural produce enjoy such a tremendous appreciation in the world. We should be good representatives of the Israeli spirit and not be so deeply concerned about the negative elements; we have to remember that in every society there are negative elements. The world appreciates Israel."
“There are some Israelis that make me very proud. I am proud of our Nobel laureates; they represent the spirit of Israel. As a representative of Israel, you get to appreciate more and more the greatness of what Israel has become. It is not that the glass is half full or half empty, but that the glass is almost full.”
 
Africa is going through dramatic positive changes: "We see a lot of development, in governance and in economic development. It is important to remember that Israel is the only country outside of the African continent that is land-linked to the African continent, we are the direct land link between Asia, Europe and Africa.”
 
Africa has a tremendous amount of national wealth. Israel has a lot to contribute to Africa as it itself began  from nothing to being what it is now. For instance, KKL-JNF has contributed to the fight against desertification and climate change, sharing its professional know-how in planting trees in arid and semi-arid regions with a number of African nations.
 
Avi Granot welcomes the President of Nigeria to Israel. Photo: Courtesy Avi Granot
Photo: Courtesy Avi Granot
 
According to Ambassador Granot, “our experience and our know-how is what we are more than willing to share with others, free of charge. We want to show others how problems can be solved. There is no justification for lack of food, starvation, or lack of water, it is not an issue; we have proved that these issues can be solved. It is all about our efforts. What we have done in Israel is open for everybody to copy. We can help them but we cannot replace their desires."
 
Personal Triumphs: “I never looked at the work that I do as the work of an individual because I don’t believe that an individual can achieve glory. We are not angels, we are only people. Whatever I have achieved, is due to many people: my assistant, many people that I work with. The hard work is done by many. We have to look at achievements not on a personal level but more as an achievement as a society. I like to look at the forest, not the individual tree. The forest has an impact, an individual tree very little, forests change weather; rain. One tree can never do that. I think in the long run the people that are really successful are those that don’t stand alone."
 
Drifting to the shores of safety: "I believe very much that you might end up drowning when you are in very fast moving river trying to swim to the shore of your liking, rather than letting the river take you by itself to the shores of the safety. Most people have drowned because they did not let the river take them to the right shore, and not to the shore that seem closest. I don't believe in fighting the stream. Even in the future I am sure I won't stay idle, but will let the stream take me where it may; it may not take me to my passions.”
 
Ambassador Granot explains that in life we are not given second chance to go back in time and change our decisions. According to him it is good thing that he was never given another chance because otherwise he might have turned a different road. "I am a great believer that where we are is not due to the mistakes we have made but due to a certain wisdom that has brought us here, which has been wise enough directing me. I know people have tried to fight, but I don’t think it has brought great success. The principle is to always do your best whatever you do", concludes Ambassador Avi Granot.
 
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