The Israeli consulate that serves the Pacific Northwest has a new second-in-command.
Matan Zamir, a ninth-generation Jerusalemite, took over as deputy consul general at Israel’s diplomatic office on Montgomery Street in downtown San Francisco on Aug. 1.
Ravit Baer, who had served in the post since August 2015, has moved back to Jerusalem to continue her diplomatic service at home.
San Francisco is the third foreign assignment for Zamir, a career diplomat, lawyer and former telecom manager. The 37-year-old entered the foreign service in 2011, serving his first assignment in Mumbai, India. In 2015 he went to Boston, where he served as deputy consul general to New England until last year.
Zamir’s name came up at a Pride reception and celebration in June when Shlomi Kofman, Israel’s top diplomat in San Francisco as consul general since August 2017, cited him as an example of prominent LGBTQ Israelis. Zamir is openly gay.
“It’s important for us to support this community,” Kofman said at that time.
So what does a deputy consul general do, exactly? A typical work day in Boston saw Zamir tackle administrative work in the morning — helping people with passports, visas, deferment of military service and the like — then engage in political diplomacy in the afternoon. During his three-year post, he helped organize a trip to Israel for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and 50 businesspeople and academics, and helped plan a musical Jerusalem Day celebration at historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, among many other things.
Zamir served in the IDF from 1999 to 2003, earning the rank of lieutenant, and went on to complete a law degree at Hebrew University in 2008. He said one thing he won’t miss about Boston is the winters. He experienced three of them.
“It was rough,” he said.
The S.F.-based consulate serves the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, plus Northern California. It is one of eight Israeli consular offices in the United States.
Zamir said one of the unique characteristics of diplomacy in the Bay Area is managing high-tech partnerships between Israel and the U.S. He said the consulate wants to serve as a “matchmaker” for innovative Israeli technologies that are developed in the private sector, the government sector and at universities.
“Our position — not only here [in the Bay Area] but especially here — is to make sure that we make the right connections between what we know Israel has to offer” and what U.S. companies are looking for, he said.
“There are a lot of American companies that look to the [Israeli] consulate, because we are a matchmaker that doesn’t charge,” he said.
Throughout the summer, Zamir has met with Israeli companies, university labs and government authorities — such as the Israel Innovation Authority (previously known as the Office of the Chief Scientist) — to learn about cutting-edge Israeli technologies that may be of interest to U.S. firms and investors.
“I’m learning about Israel, but through the lens of the industry” in the Bay Area and beyond, he said.
As for the current priorities of the Israeli foreign service, Zamir said they are set at the top — by the prime minister and subsequently by the foreign minister. In his view, he said, the administration’s top priority right now is working jointly with world leaders to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
But with new elections planned for Sept. 17, the directives of foreign service officers could change.
“Every government has their own set of priorities,” he said.
Zamir will serve as deputy consul general for three or four years, he said. He’ll live in an apartment provided by the Israeli government with his partner, Dylan Chuilli, and their small dog.
A native New Englander, Chuilli is not Jewish and hardly spoke a word of Hebrew when they met, Zamir said. “He did something remarkable. He moved to Israel with me.” Chuilli went to language classes and after 10 months was “getting used to living in Israel.” That said, he is a big fan of San Francisco, too. “He loves this city,” Zamir said.
Zamir said he is looking forward to working with the local Jewish community in the Bay Area.