The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel announcedWednesday that it will be closing the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel announced Wednesday that it will be closing the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.
After the Israeli government announced the opening of the consulate in 1961, according to JTA, Consul General Yaron Sideman confirmed it will close at the end of 2016, but there is no specific date yet.
He said the Israeli government decided back in August to close several diplomatic missions solely for budgetary reasons, and Philadelphia made the list.
“It’s not the first time in Israel and it’s not the first state that has experienced budgetary and financial needs that translate into shutting down diplomatic missions,” he stated.
Although a report in the Jerusalem Post linked the closing of the Philadelphia consulate to the opening of a fourth consulate in China, Sideman said they are two separate issues.
He added that plans to open a consulate in Chengdu, China were already in the works about two years ago.
“At the end of the day, they opened a consulate in China but they didn’t close Philadelphia. Now it’s purely budgetary constraints that have nothing to do with opening elsewhere,” he explained.
“It doesn’t render Philadelphia less important,” Sideman said. “It’s always an extremely painful decision to make. All of the responsibilities and activities of this consulate will be administered in a different way by other existing Israeli missions in the U.S.”
Sideman, who has spent nearly four years in Philadelphia, was taken aback by the announcement.
“It’s always a shock and a surprise,” he said. “It’s a painful thing to do. As necessary as it is, it’s very painful.”
Deputy Consul General Moran Birman just began his stint here in August.
“It’s not an easy start,” he said. "I was just starting to know the city, the community, the people, so that makes it hard."
He added that he will most likely be relocating to another mission, but he is unsure where or when.
Director of Governmental Affairs and Press Michael Alexander said the Ministry will do its best to assist the 15 other Israeli and American employees at the consulate, but there is no set plan of action yet.
Sideman stressed the importance that the decision to close “in no way whatsoever reflects or impacts the special relations between Israel and the U.S. All of the areas of activities and responsibilities of this place are going to continue being carried on.”
Sideman added that he will miss his staff, colleagues and the community in Philadelphia.
“For me, it was a humbling and very rewarding — it still is — experience to be working with such capable and dedicated, committed people,” he said.
Although some members of the community believe this decision can be changed — it was threatened with closure twice before — Sideman confirmed that this decision is final.
“We’re already receiving many messages of concerned people, people who are expressing their disappointment, their sadness over this decision,” he said. “I feel that this consulate has embedded itself in the community. I myself feel very much among family in the community and certainly here in the consulate with my colleagues.”
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