Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat – a Muslim called Ishmael Khaldi – will give a talk at St Mary’s on the Harbour in Castletown this Saturday at 11.30am.
He was invited to speak in Castletown by church vicar Rev Dr Jules Gomes, who said: ‘Someone told me about him, he was a Bedouin, I have been to Israel a number of times and there have been occasions when I have been walking in the desert and spotted by Bedouins who have taken the time and come up to me – in miles and miles of sand – and say: “Do you know there’s something wrong, you are wearing the wrong sort of shoes.” They can tell by the footprint.
‘I wrote him an email and was thrilled when he wrote back and sent me a copy of his book telling his extraordinary story.’
His book – A Shepherd’s Journey – describes his journey from the Bedouin village of Khawalid in Western Galilee to working as a diplomat for the Israeli government.
He gained a BA in political science from the University of Haifa, a Masters degree in International Relations from Tel Aviv University, served in the Israeli Defence Force, Defence Ministry and Israeli police before joining the Foreign ministry.
He acted as the spokesman to the Arabic media during Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. He also served as Deputy Consul General in San Francisco and is policy advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Although the theme of his talk in Castletown is minorities – of which he has first hand experience – it will inevitably stray into controversial areas such as Israel’s relationship with Palestine and particularly, given recent events, the Gaza Strip.
Mr Khalid is used to controversy. He has talked at venues throughout the world about Israel, often meeting hostility.
‘He is being attacked verbally and almost physically,’ said Rev Dr Gomes. ‘At universities he has been called a trouble maker, when he is a peacemaker trying to build bridges.
‘Israel is a haven for religious minorities in the Middle East. It is the only country [which is a haven] in the Middle East. There is a significant rise in the exodus of Christians everywhere else due to militant Islam. We are talking about the birthplace of Christianity.
‘Iraqi Christians are the oldest Christians in the world, Egyptians speak Coptic which is very close to Amharic, the language Christ spoke. It [Christianity] is being eradicated from the place it was born.’
This talks offers the chance to absorb a unique perspective of one of the most complex contemporary political issues.
Rev Gomes said: ‘I do not mind if his talk is controversial because people need to ask difficult questions and need to understand it is a difficult debate.
‘In a world of sound bite journalism where the image says it all, the most heart rending image is not necessarily the truth.’