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Reflections of a Jewish American Diplomat

The Maltese falcon ... Efraim Cohen gets to know a falcon in Malta

ESRA Modiin had the pleasure of hearing a treasure of anecdotes from Efraim Cohen's experiences during the years he served as a Jewish American career diplomat. A great speaker and fascinating personality, he held the audience captivated by tales from his various assignments.

Efraim was a man with strong Jewish values who upheld his religion throughout his diplomatic service, never taking on any post that would entail him having to serve on the Sabbath or Jewish Holidays.

Prior to his diplomatic career, he received a B.A. in Political Science from Yeshiva University, followed by a period at Harvard University Law School,where he received a J.D. and LL.M.,majoring in international law. After four years as an Assistant Professor of Law, he joined the US diplomatic corps in 1984 and served close to 25 years.He held posts in London, Cape Town,Iraq, La Paz in Bolivia, and two assignments in Israel, as well as numerous posts in Washington D.C.

During the time he served in La Paz, one of his sons was nearing his bar mitzvah. He approached the rabbi of the Jewish Community to begin preparing his son for this very special occasion in his life. However, when the rabbi presented him with a book and told him he could use it to prepare his son on his own, he realized thatit was not possible to arrange for his son's bar mitzvah in the true Jewish tradition. So he left La Paz and transferred back to Washington where his two sons could attend a Jewish Day School.

As Deputy Director of the State Department's Office of International Conferences from 2000 to 2002, he was a member of the US delegation to the infamous Durban conference. There, he witnessed first hand how people showed contempt and hatred towards Israel and the Jewish people, and watched demonstrators march through the streets chanting anti-Semitic slogans. The situation was scary and he was proud that the United States decided to withdraw from the conference when it became clear that there was no justification for their continued presence at this hate-fest.

In 2004,Efraim served in Baghdad, Iraq,and was assigned the post of Political Officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority. While there, he received two kinds of kosher meals in boxes, one for weekly meals and another for Shabbat.

In Israel, he served two tours of duty at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, first as Head of Personnel from 1990 to 1995, and later as Cultural Attaché from 2005 to 2008. He was in Israel with his family during the Gulf War and the second Lebanon War, and it was then that he decided to retire from the Foreign Service and make aliyah.

During his diplomatic career Efraim received numerous "Meritorious Honor Awards" and "Superior Honor Awards" from the State Department as well as the Secretary of State's "Career Achievement Award". He is a Senior Fellow at Bar-Ilan University's Center for International Communications and a Fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. He is also an adviser to the US Department of State's Office of Civil Rights, and a Council Member of the Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers (CoHav).

In addition to volunteering his services as a freelance guide at the First Aliyah Museum in Zichron Yaacov, Efraim also volunteers in a similar capacity at the Atlit Detention Center.

Efraim Cohen lives with his family in Zichron Yaacov. 

 

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Thursday, 09 December 2021

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