Israel appoints its first female Muslim diplomat

Rasha Atamny, 31, from Baqa al-Gharbiya, will be heading to Turkey

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

Rasha Atamny, 31, from Baqa al-Gharbiyye,  is Israel's first female Arab-Muslim diplomat. (Twitter)
Rasha Atamny, 31, from Baqa al-Gharbiyye, is Israel's first female Arab-Muslim diplomat. (Twitter)

The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday appointed Rasha Atamny, 31, to represent the Jewish state in Ankara, Turkey, making her Israel’s first female Muslim diplomat.

Atamny, who is completing the final months of the ministry’s cadet course, will serve as the embassy’s first secretary in the influential Muslim nation.

Turkey is an important regional ally for Israel, with strong economic ties. The two countries signed a reconciliation agreement in June, 2016, ending a six-year rift.

Atamny hails from the Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiya in central Israel, located just inside the pre-1967 Green Line between Israel and the West Bank.

She is not Israel’s first female Arab diplomat. Christian-Arab Rania Jubran, the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran, worked for the ministry from 2006 to 2009, but left shortly before she was due to be sent to Cairo.

Israel also has several male Muslim and Christian diplomats.

Atamny, who studied psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said in a blog (Hebrew) posted to the Foreign Ministry’s website that she honed her diplomatic skills in her collegiate Model UN club.

While in university, she wrote,”The concept of the ‘UN’ fascinated me. At the time I did not know too much about the organization, but I did know that I, a girl who grew up in Baqa al-Gharbiya and experienced the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Jewish conflict in the flesh, believed and still believe in peace between nations of the world.”

One year after joining the Model UN club, Atamny applied for and was accepted to represent Israel at the actual UN in New York City as a youth ambassador for three months.

“From the three months I was at the UN, one turning point will forever accompany me. One day, I sat at the Israeli seat as usual in the Human Rights Assembly Committee, and I listened with great interest to the discussion that took place — the violation of women’s rights,” she wrote.

She continued: “By this point, I had become used to hearing the series of charges against Israel from many countries on the council, as [United States UN envoy] Nikki Haley recently described in the media. The discrimination against Israel is very prominent in the UN, and disappointing.”

However, this time, Atamny said, it was different.

“This time I listened to the speeches from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt condemning Israel’s ‘systematic violations of women’s rights’ while I, an Arab-Muslim woman of Palestinian origin represent Israel at the UN General Assembly,” she said.

“That day at the UN, which made me desperately disappointed, pushed me to take the matter into my own hands,” she concluded. “I believe in peace because I believe that people can make a positive difference in the world, and I want to be part of the change. So I started by choosing to join the Foreign Ministry cadets course.”

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