Israeli Consul General Andy David, who will soon be leaving his San Francisco post, voted in Israel's national election on Jan. 10, 2013 along with some 4,000 other Israeli government employees at consulates and embassies around the world. (Photo/Courtesy Israeli Consulate)
Israeli Consul General Andy David, who will soon be leaving his San Francisco post, voted in Israel's national election on Jan. 10, 2013 along with some 4,000 other Israeli government employees at consulates and embassies around the world. (Photo/Courtesy Israeli Consulate)

Israeli diplomat, high-tech cheerleader looks back on five years in S.F.

His family had already returned to Israel, so Andy David was left in a conference room at the Israeli consulate scrolling through Instagram for a post from his teenage son that neatly summed up the boy’s five-year stay in San Francisco.

Ron, 13, wrote how difficult it was to leave after building friendships and bonding with his teammates on a hockey team he helped lead to a state title.

His father acknowledged those feelings, saying they echoed his own emotions as he wrapped up his term as Israel’s consul general for the Pacific Northwest, a position that is based in San Francisco.

“The fact that it’s hard to leave is good,” the elder David said. “What would [it] say if it was easy to leave? What would that mean about the bonds I formed here? What about the friendships? Yeah, it’s hard to leave, but I see that as a good thing. It means that it was meaningful.”

While Ron scored the winning goal in double overtime of the San Francisco Sabercats’ 2-1 championship game victory in early April, his dad has been completing a stint that featured greatly expanded ties between Silicon Valley and Israel’s thriving community of tech startups.

The S.F.-based consulate had a small economic development section when David arrived in the Bay Area, and he said it is now the largest such office of any Israeli consulate or embassy in the world.

Outgoing Israeli Consul General Andy David cites as one of his favorite Bay Area memories this August, 2014 pro-Israel rally in San Francisco. )
Outgoing Israeli Consul General Andy David cites as one of his favorite Bay Area memories this August 2014 pro-Israel rally in San Francisco. (Photo/file)

Those high-tech connections have led to greater understanding of Israel and have had practical side effects, such as United Airlines starting nonstop service between San Francisco and Tel Aviv in March of last year.

“Before coming to San Francisco, I was trying to think what is different about this area compared to other consulates in the United States,” he said in perhaps his final interview at the consulate. “Usually the relationship is based on geography. I was thinking: ‘Can I base it on something different, a concept, not geography.’

“The concept I defined to myself was I was going to be Startup Nation’s ambassador to Silicon Valley. I’m happy that it’s grown so much. I think the curiosity that others have toward Israel has reached new heights.”

David, 49, was a dentist and was teaching dentistry at Hebrew University when the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin changed his life. It led him to become a diplomat with the Foreign Ministry, through which he had postings in Baku, Azerbaijan and Hong Kong before becoming deputy consul general in Chicago from 2004 to 2008.

A deputy spokesman for the Foreign Ministry before coming to San Francisco in 2012, he’ll now return to the home office before taking his next diplomatic assignment.

Israel and California signed six memoranda of understanding during the past five years, and David helped plan visits by the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle to his homeland. His territory covered Northern California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska.

Diplomacy is basically three things: protocol, alcohol and cholesterol.

He pointed to an August 2014 pro-Israel rally that drew 3,000 people to the streets of San Francisco as one of the highlights of his term, but said success as a diplomat is based on an ongoing effort not necessarily tied to specific events.

“It comprises many small moments and details that eventually fall into place, and big things happen,” he said. “I believe in creating platforms. It’s like a very heavy wheel — when you first start it’s so heavy, it’s so hard, but then it gains momentum and you take your hands off and it continues to spin.”

David will join the rest of his family — wife Ayelet, 15-year-old Shir, Ron and 8-year-old Mika — in Israel next month, when Shlomi Kofman is scheduled to take over as the consul general in San Francisco. Kofman is a seasoned Israeli diplomat whose postings have been in China, Thailand, New York City and elsewhere.

David, meanwhile, said he is looking forward to being reunited with the warm waters of the Mediterranean, mainly because he’s an avid windsurfer. The sport helped him stay in shape during his five years in San Francisco despite the challenges facing any consul general.

“Diplomacy is basically three things: protocol, alcohol and cholesterol. So you have to make sure you don’t exaggerate any of those,” he said.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.