Madame Ambassador: Behind The Scenes With A Candid Israeli Diplomat.
Herzl, a career diplomat who entered the diplomatic corps at the age of 30, worked for the Foreign Service from 1983 to 2003. These years marked a period of frenetic change the world over, but especially in the countries in which she served as ambassador – the Baltic States (from
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Herzl, a career diplomat who entered the diplomatic corps at the age of 30, worked for the Foreign Service from 1983 to 2003. These years marked a period of frenetic change the world over, but especially in the countries in which she served as ambassador – the Baltic States (from 1993 to 1996) and South Africa (from 2001 to 2003). Given all she saw and experienced in her two-decade-long career, there is a lot to reminisce about, and the book flits back and forth between Herzl’s postings – which also included two tours of duty as a congressional liaison in Washington. The book is formatted as a subject- based rather than a chronological look back at her time abroad and among the many and varied topics, Herzl touches on the importance of language (the complicated issue of whether to speak Russian in former Soviet states), what an ambassador actually does, and the Holocaust (an inevitable subject in the Baltics). . . .Of course, diplomatic life is full of propriety and protocol, and understanding just how the rules work and with whom you can and should fraternize is not always easy. To give some insight into just how the complicated system works, Herzl outlines the minutiae of diplomatic life, how relationships work, whom you visit and how you address them, even when the person standing opposite you is clad just in animal skins and feathers – as was the case when she presented her credentials to the king of Swaziland. It is vignettes such as these…that make the book so enjoyable and readable. As she states in the introduction, the book is an attempt to write a personal, yet general, informative and entertaining work that would demystify diplomacy. Herzl easily jumps between the political and personal, the absurd and the weighty, and in so doing has certainly made the diplomatic life a little less foreign. * gem * Tova Herzl has written an interesting memoir about a fascinating career. . . While most people consider the diplomatic corps a ‘glamorous’ life, it has many aspects that are not glamorous at all, but the author is candid about both these humdrum realities and her personal life as a single, religiously-observant person, and conveys a sense of satisfaction in having carried out her mandate with skill and grace. * Jewish Book Council * Madam Ambassador is a highly readable ‘dummies guide’ to how the Israeli Foreign Ministry operates, the notion of Israeli diplomacy and diplomacy itself, pieced together with very short chapters. The [author’s]. . . .21 years of service are more than adequate to provide the background for an interesting tale. This is a book that will interest young readers wanting to learn how Israel operates diplomatically in the world; it will provide a source for discussion amongst havura groups, and it will be a good addition to general synagogue collections. * Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews * Tova Herzl [is] a former member of Israel’s diplomatic corps . . . Although she officially retired from the Foreign Ministry about a decade ago, the recent publication of her memoir Madame Ambassador: Behind the Scenes with a Candid Israeli Diplomat has brought her back into the limelight, and she clearly enjoys her role as raconteur. Her book, as Tova readily admits, is no tell-all tome about some of the world’s most powerful people. Nor does it reveal hush-hush secrets about Israel’s defense systems or clandestine relations with outwardly hostile countries. Instead, she says, she wants to give readers an inside look into what an ambassador actually does, to go beyond the glamour and share some of the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes details of a job that, by definition, takes place mostly in the public eye. * Family First * Madame Ambassador is an entertaining book full of incidents taken from the author’s experiences during her over 20-year career. What distinguishes this book from the memoirs of many other envoys is the emphasis on the day-to-day work done by diplomats. The reader is offered a smorgasbord of events which illuminate what a diplomatic posting entails. . . .Herzl writes in a lively, consistently self-deprecating tone. . . .Tova Herzl was indeed an ambassador plenipotentiary and extraordinary, and Madame Ambassador is an informative and enjoyable book, which sheds welcome light on a profession both familiar yet not well-known. * The Jerusalem Report * Unlike software coders or social media marketers, ultra-sound operators or bloggers, none of whom existed 50 years ago (OK, a handful of coders calling themselves programmers did already exist), diplomats have been around for centuries. All the more startling, then, that such a Diplomacy for Dummies handbook hasn’t been written until now; if you read it, it’s reasonable the knowledge you’ll acquire will still be up to date after you complete the reading. * Yaacov Lozowick’s Ruminations * Herzl is upfront about some of the dilemmas that faced her-whether to learn Russian when going to the Baltic States, how to engage with Holocaust memory, what the response should be to the Jonathan Pollard controversy and how best to deal with hostile anti-Israel sentiment in South Africa. She writes about important issues for Israel and explains how easily diplomatic misunderstandings can happen. And, while there are some meaty discussions on topics such as the relationship between Judaism and other religions, and Israeli versus Jewish identity, her book is so much more. * South African Jewish Report * Tova Herzl was a no-holds-barred diplomat who had the difficult assignment of being Israeli Ambassador to South Africa at the time a deep official chill descended on the bilateral relationship. This insightful and insider account of her life as an Israeli foreign emissary is a rich and honest retelling of both the high stakes and low moments and often-times the absurd protocols of diplomatic life. It is an important addition to the literature and is told in a winningly, often funny, authentic authorial voice. — Ambassador Tony Leon, previously South African Ambassador to Argentina and former leader of the opposition, Parliament of South Africa. Madame Ambassador is different from most -if not all-books written by diplomats. It does not focus on policy, but instead sheds light on the day-to-day realities of the lives of diplomats, putting a human face on a prestigious yet little understood profession. As a young ambassador when Latvia was adapting to its renewed independence, Tova Herzl laid the foundations for bilateral relations, including regarding Holocaust-related matters. She describes with honesty the personal and professional challenges which faced her then, and throughout her career. Diplomats, those who deal with them, and anyone interested in how countries interact, will all be enriched by the insightful writing, which moves from humorous to poignant, and is always factual and frank. — Karina Petersone, Director, Latvian Institute, former Minister of Culture of Latvia. Clear-headed, candid, realistic and wry, Tova Herzl’s diplomatic memoir is a delight. Herzl provides an insider’s tale of Israeli diplomacy, deftly interweaving the personal with the professional, conveying periods of heavy drama with the lightest of touches. — David Horovitz, Editor, The Times of Israel
About the Author
Tova Herzl was Israel’s first ambassador to the recently independent Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), as well as her country’s ambassador to South Africa. She served two stints as Congressional liaison in Israel’s embassy in Washington, D.C.