The new Israeli consul general in Montreal, David Levy, says that his government recognizes the importance of Quebec and of maintaining a full diplomatic presence in the province.
Levy said the fact that he was appointed so swiftly after the departure of the previous consul general is proof of that.
“We absolutely need a mission in Montreal,” he said. “The foreign ministry sees it as one of the most important in North America – for being uniquely francophone, as a cultural capital, as an economic partner, for its United Nations agencies and role in the Jewish world. We know how important it is to maintain that co-operation.”
The lease on the consulate’s offices in Westmount Square has been renewed, indicating, he added, that, “We are not going anywhere.”
Levy succeeds Zev Nevo Kulman, who left in November to head the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s cultural diplomacy bureau. Having left ahead of schedule, it was anticipated that he would not be replaced until the summer.
Levy, 43, a career diplomat, serves as consul general to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, as well as permanent representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency headquartered in Montreal.
Levy’s most recently acted as a political counsellor in the ministry’s human rights and international organizations department. This entailed liaising with numerous UN bodies, including those responsible for providing aid to the Palestinians. “It was a challenging job, but very interesting,” said Levy.
This work also brought him into contact with Canadians. “Canada was, and is, one of our strongest allies and I can attest to that from several meetings we had with Canadians on UN affairs,” he said.
Levy arrived at the beginning of February with his wife and four children. He is working with deputy consul Rotem Segev, who came last year.
Born in Israel, Levy has a law degree from Tel Aviv University and is a member of the bar, but never practised law.
“I finished with the law firm where I apprenticed on a Thursday and started my [Foreign Ministry] cadet course on Sunday. I like to say I never lost a case, and I want to keep it that way,” he said.
Representing Israel to the world has been a dream of his since he was a child. When he was 14, he attended a summer camp on diplomacy at Hebrew University.
He was previously posted in South Korea, Latvia and Cameroon, where he had a chance to use his French.
Levy is half Ashkenazi and half Sephardi. His late father, a doctor, was born in Marrakech and his mother was born in Paris of Polish parents.
She and her mother were hidden during the Holocaust by non-Jews. Her father died in Auschwitz.
Their story is told in Yad Vashem’s exhibition through a wooden doll’s bed that Levy’s grandfather made for his daughter, while he was being held in a transit camp.
Levy’s parents met while they were students at an Alliance Israelite institution in Paris. His mother, who’s now retired, worked as a professor of French literature at Bar-Ilan University.
Hebrew, however, was the language they used at home, and Levy only heard French spoken occasionally by his parents. He studied the language in school and is now proficient in it.
When this posting opened, I jumped at the opportunity.
– David Levy
“When this posting opened, I jumped at the opportunity; it’s been my dream job for a long time. I feel very lucky,” he said, and not only because this is the first time he has held the rank of consul general.
Levy hopes to build on the economic and political ties Nevo Kulman forged. Trade missions to Israel led by Premier Philippe Couillard and former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre resulted in a number of bilateral agreements, as well as Air Transat’s launch of direct Montreal to Tel Aviv flights. “There are so many more opportunities,” he said.
On whether Levy realizes that opinion polls consistently show that support for Israel is weaker in Quebec than the rest of Canada, he said: “I am confident more and more Quebecers will see how relevant Israel can be to their day-to-day lives, especially its technology, whether it’s generating jobs, creating added value or improving the quality of life.”
He also hopes to continue bringing in Israeli artists and writers. “What they tell comes from the heart, their intimate stories speak to audiences, regardless of background or politics,” he said.
Levy is looking forward to getting to know the local Jewish community. “Growing up in Israel, we were not very aware of how strong the Jewish community abroad was,” he said. “My first encounter with the Diaspora, including some Canadians, was when I was a counsellor at a Young Judea summer camp, when I was just out of military service.”