Honoring Former Israeli Consul General’s Passing

Honoring Former Israeli Consul General’s Passing

Arye Mekel served the Southeastern United States for seven years.

Arye Mekel was a journalist and diplomat.
Arye Mekel was a journalist and diplomat.

Days after his death, members of the Atlanta Jewish community fondly remembered Arye Mekel, a long-serving Israeli diplomat who spent 1993 to 2000 as consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States in Atlanta. He died June 20 at 75 years of age.

“We mourn the passing of Ambassador Arye Mekel, a great diplomat, writer and journalist, whose love and dedication to the State of Israel were reflected throughout his extensive career,” commented Anat Sultan-Dadon, the current consul general. “Here in Atlanta, we are grateful for Ambassador Mekel’s contribution to the bilateral relations between Israel and the Southeast while serving as Israel’s consul general in Atlanta from 1993 to 2000. Ambassador Mekel’s many contributions to the State of Israel and its foreign relations will remain a part of his legacy. We send sincere condolences to his family.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, while consul general in Atlanta, Mekel “regularly took American dignitaries on trips to Israel where he acted as their personal guide, even though there was a professional guide accompanying them.”

Mekel was “a consummate PR man,” said Shai Robkin.

Atlantan Shai Robkin, who holds Israeli citizenship and heads the regional council of the New Israel Fund, recalls Mekel as “a consummate PR man. I guess that’s because his field was communications. He was an effective advocate for Israel because, more than anything else, he had a very congenial nature and rarely, if ever, had a frown on his face.”

Steve Berman’s daughter lives in Israel and he sits on the NIF regional council. He said he found Mekel “to be a most extraordinary public servant. Of all the consul generals who passed through Atlanta, Arye really was one of the best we have seen here.”

Both Mekel and his wife Ruthie, who worked at the consulate as cultural affairs director, “were the most heimisha folks I knew,” said Lois Frank, former president of Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, president of the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta, and the national leader of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “It was really surprising how down to earth and unpretentious they were.” She added that Mekel’s daughter still lives in Atlanta.

According to Frank, Mekel had “an easy going, laid-back manner, dry sense of humor, with a real twinkle. He knew a lot of people and played Jewish geography all the time. Each new consul who has come since he left has called me and said that Arye recommended they reach out to me once they get here. It is really a lovely connection with the new consul generals who come, and I have been very appreciative that he has made this kesher [connection]. It also speaks to his investment in the success of the new person coming.”

Mekel suggested each subsequent consul general contact, said Lois Frank.

Mekel acquired the title of ambassador when, from 2010 to 2014, he served as Israel’s ambassador to Greece. Frank contended that Mekel vastly improved the relations between Greece and Israel during his ambassadorship. She recalled that when the Carmel Forest fires broke out in 2010, “Arye was instrumental in getting the Greek government to help with crushing the fire. I think they sent airplanes of water and fire retardant to the region.” Forty-four people died in that fire.

After serving in Atlanta, Mekel was charge d’affaires at the Israeli Embassy in South Korea. He had also served as consul general of Israel in New York; Israel’s deputy representative to the United Nations; foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir; a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and director general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Born to Holocaust survivors in Europe, Mekel spoke several languages, including Yiddish, Arabic, Russian, Polish and, of course, Hebrew and English.

Until his death, he was a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

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