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Zvi Mazel Takes Up Post Of Israel’s Ambassador To Egypt

by Samir Raafat
Middle East Times, November 9, 1996

Zvi Mazel

On October 29, Israel appointed Zvi Mazel as its new ambassador to Egypt. If his foreign postings are anything to go by, Egypt had better brace itself. In two out of Mazel's four overseas postings the president of his host nation died brutally in front of TV cameras. In the third, the leader was outsted and had to flee the country. Only in France, did the Israeli diplomat spend a quite uneventful tour of duty.

Mazel replaces Egyptian-born David Sultan who was named his country's ambassador to Canada earlier this year. The post of ambassador to Egypt had been vacant since September. A career diplomat, Mazel is Israel's sixth envoy to Egypt since the signing of the Peace Treaty in March 1979. Of his six predecessors, two were political appointees. Knesset Member Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Israel's first ambassador to Egypt, was a hard-line Likud hawk. He was recently appointed ambassador to Washington. The other political appointee was Professor Shimon Shamir, who founded and headed Tel Aviv University's Institute for Peace Studies. Regarded a Labor dove, he was Israel's third ambassador to Egypt before resigning in 1990 over policy differences with Yitzhak Shamir's Likud government. In 1995, Shamir was appointed Israel's first envoy to Jordan. The other three ambassadors to Egypt were Moshe Sasson, Ephraim Dowek and David Sultan, all three, professional diplomats.

Mazel's action-packed career started with a military coup in Tananarive, capital of the island Republic of Madagascar where Zvi was posted between 1969-72. The diplomat and his wife were there long enough to give birth to their third child and to see President Philibert Tsiranana huddle off into exile. Shortly after, the Mazels and their children -- Iris, Yossi and Malagasy-born Tami -- left for Paris where nothing consequential happened.

In 1980, the Mazels were sent to Cairo. It was there that their son Yossi celebrated his bar mitzvah in the small Maadi synagogue, a first since the last such celebration took place in 1962. A few months later, the Mazels, still in Maadi, watched in disbelief as Anwar Sadat, the architect of peace with Israel, was gunned down during the live TV coverage of the 1981 Sixth of October Victory Parade. The third presidential upheaval occurred in Bucharest in 1989. Zvi Mazel had just been appointed his country's ambassador to Romania, then the only satellite state in the Soviet bloc that had full relations with Israel. A few weeks after his arrival, the bloody events started around Xmas week. After 45 years of communism, Romania had decided to rid itself of Nikolai Ceausescu, its despotic ruler of 24 years. The country was suddenly wracked by revolution. And just as the Mazels thought things were returning to normal, Bucharest was deluged by torrential rains which flooded the embassy residence. This was followed by a killer quake.

Michele Mazel The Ambassador's wife, Michelle was born during turbulent times in Poitiers, France. This was 1940, when half of France was occupied by Germany. Her family spent most of the war years in the south of France where her demobilized father practiced medicine. After the war, they returned to Paris where Michelle grew up and studied law and political science at the University of Paris. It was at the Institute of Political Science where the scholarly-looking petite Mazel met her red-haired husband-to-be. In 1966 they traveled to Israel where Zvi started to work for the foreign ministry and Michelle got a job in the government printing office in West Jerusalem. She later headed the Israeli Foreign Ministry Wives Association.

It was after they returned from Egypt that Michelle worked as a translator and journalist. During her husband's posting in Romania she wrote her first book "Stone Moon" which she completed in April 1991. Written in English, the book is set in the Jericho area. The fast-paced suspense story deals with the implications of the intifada, the PLO and a yearn for peace which is perhaps why former Prime Minister Shimon Perez qualified it as "refreshing". Michelle went on to write her second thriller which she tentatively titled "Sirens over Jerusalem" based on the Gulf war and Scud attacks.

After Bucharest, Zvi Mazel was appointed Chief of the East Europe Department at the Israeli Foreign Affairs. From there he covered Russia and the European countries of the former Soviet Union. Later, he was made responsible for the Central Asian republics before assuming the directorship of the African Affairs desk.

When the peace process looked like it was still advancing, Mazel called for regional economic development as a means of bridging differences between Arabs and Jews. He held that the best solution for his country's running trade deficit (approx. $5 billion in 1993/4 ) was the need to cover it with exports. "Israel has the image of an advanced, successful example of a country that developed fast. People look to us for expertise in technology and agriculture. By helping these countries, we also help fight anti-Semitism." Mazel considers that in order to realize this undertaking, "Israel needs to be everywhere. Through its trade attachés, the Foreign Ministry can help pave the way to economic prosperity."

On another note, Mazel was quoted as saying "Israel must use its embassies to spread the word about what's good about Israel". If indeed, this is the case, we are all anxiously waiting to hear from Israel's new ambassador to Cairo on 'just what is good about Israel these days?!'

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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