Although she doesn’t specifically state it, the new Consul General of Israel to the Southeast, Anat Sultan-Dadon, apparently believes in the popular Jewish expression L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation. It’s often used to stress the responsibility of passing on Jewish knowledge and traditions to younger generations to maintain the heritage of the Jewish people.
Sultan-Dadon joined the Israeli diplomatic corps in 2004 after her Egyptian-born father, David Sultan, retired from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He had served as Ambassador to Egypt, Turkey and Canada.
Sultan-Dadon was born in the Netherlands, where her father represented Israel in The Hague. She lived her first five years in that country, but has also lived in Kenya, Egypt, Italy and, of course, Israel.
She attributes her impeccable English to the fact that she attended mostly international schools before acquiring a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education and a master’s degree in criminology from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Now her two oldest of three daughters are enrolled in the Atlanta International School. Her youngest daughter will attend Jacob’s Ladder, a special needs school.
“I was always attracted to the Foreign Ministry, although I did not set out to pursue this career from the beginning,” Sultan-Dadon told the AJT. “I’ve always been interested in interacting with people.”
An avid reader since she was a child, she added, “I’m curious about people and cultures. It fits in well with the fields I chose to study and with a diplomatic career. It combines my love of country and personal relationships.”
But she had to consider the impact of the career on her personal life. “As a woman, it’s more challenging to marry and build a family when this career involves the whole family. Spouses often pay a price, having to restructure their lives every few years.” Fortunately, 21 years ago she “married a husband that thought this career really suits me.”
During those years, the Consul General – who will celebrate her 45th birthday this month – held positions at the Israeli embassies in Cameroon, Germany, the Netherlands and most recently in Australia. This is the first time she has headed a mission, and it is her first assignment in the United States. At times, her husband Yaron worked alongside her in the Israeli missions. But he’s now building a program to help empower youth in Papua New Guinea.
References to the younger generation pepper Sultan-Dadon’s conversation, as does the emphasis she places on relationships. One of the first messages she sent as she started her new position in July was a “Shabbat Shalom” email to the leaders of the Atlanta Jewish community. “It’s important for me to stress that I see us working together to ensure the strength of the relationship of the Atlanta Jewish community with Israel.
“We’re fortunate to have a large active Jewish community here,” she continued. “I’ve already met different representatives and I have been welcomed with very heartwarming open arms. I’m being received here with Southern hospitality.”
Of course, the Atlanta Jewish community isn’t her only constituency. The Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. The odd configuration is a result of the closing of the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia a few years ago.
There has been on-again, off-again talk of closing the Israel Consulate in Atlanta, but Sultan-Dadon stated, “As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing in the air about closing the Consulate. It is important to have, and retain, the Consulate here.” She admitted that the well-publicized budget constraints of the Israel Foreign Ministry “are not ideal, to say the least,” but she pointed out that much of her work at the Consulate is not budget dependent.
“The basics of diplomacy are interactions, and the relationships that you cultivate, the delivery of messages and points of view,” she said.
Her goal for this new post is clear: “I would like to see this Consulate promote Israeli interests within the states of our region on a variety of levels, including political, academic, cultural and economic. An important part of our work is to work towards trying to ensure the strength of the relations going forward and retain bipartisan support. As a Consulate, we have the responsibility to convey Israel’s points of view on matters that are important to us, such as the Iranian threat and attempts to delegitimize Israel.”
Sultan-Dadon noted that “any Israeli diplomat has a responsibility to represent our country in the country he or she is posted, with target groups as well as with the wider audience,” referring to the fact that she represents Israel both to the Jewish communities in her region as well as the non-Jewish communities. “An Israeli representative is always representing the nation state of the Jewish people.”
As part of those constituencies, the Consul General points out the importance of encouraging ties between the younger generation and Israel. She said the fact that Atlanta has so many Jewish day schools and community centers reflects how the local community shares that priority.
“It’s important that the Jewish community sees the Consulate as theirs. Ultimately, we are all one family. There are at times disagreements and criticisms, but Israel gives voice to different points of view. We take pride in that. It’s fully legitimate to have a wide range of opinions and beliefs and still be able to maintain a dialogue and relationship.” She spoke of a welcoming large tent that would represent a wide range of ideas. “But I don’t think this respect can be extended to those who pursue calls to harm or undermine Israel’s existence.”
Looking ahead at her next four years at the Consulate in Atlanta, Sultan-Dadon said she’s “very excited.”