Israel appoints first envoy of Ethiopian origin

Shlomo Cesana

Israel Hayom

Feb 29, 2012

|Belaynish Zevadia

Coming full circle: Belaynish Zevadia, who came to Israel as a teen, is returning to Ethiopia as ambassador.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday appointed its first ambassador of Ethiopian origin.

Belaynish Zevadia, 43, who was the ministry’s first cadet of Ethiopian descent, will now serve as Israel’s envoy in Addis Ababa, the capital of the country where she was born and where she lived until age 17, when she immigrated to Israel.

The Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee announced Zevadia’s appointment on Tuesday. It is subject to Cabinet approval.

Zevadia, who has a master’s degree in African studies and international relations, joined the ministry’s cadets’ course in 1993, and has since served in various diplomatic roles, including at Israeli consulates in Illinois and Texas.

“This is a huge source of pride,” Zevadia said on Tuesday. “I made aliyah to Israel as a teenager and I am returning to Ethiopia as an ambassador. This is a big honor for me and my family.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed Zevadia’s appointment, saying it “sends a message” to Israeli society, at a time when the Ethiopian community has endured racism, in schools and in neighborhoods that refuse to integrate Ethiopians.

"I am proud to be the first foreign minister to appoint an Ethiopian ambassador on behalf of the state of Israel. I am certain that she will represent the state with honor and be a source of pride to all Ethiopian Israelis," Lieberman said. “In Israel, people are judged not by the color of their skin or their gender, but by their qualifications and their ability to contribute to society. I am convinced that she will represent Israel with honor.”

Just last month, some 5,000 protesters, mostly from the Ethiopian community, marched from the Knesset to Independence Park in Jerusalem to protest racism in Israel. The demonstrators carried Israeli flags and signs saying: “Racism – not in our country,” and “The time to fight for our future is now.”