On Golan, Facebook Friends, and Leadership: An Interview with Danny Ayalon
Yeshiva University appointed the Honorable Danny Ayalon as the Rennert Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy Studies at Yeshiva University for the spring 2014 semester. He will teach at Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women while delivering periodic public lectures and participating in events. Ayalon most recently served as Deputy Foreign Minister and a member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party. He also served as Israeli Ambassador to the United States from 2002 until 2006. Throughout his time in Washington, Ayalon cultivated a friendship with President George W. Bush and played a leading role in the “Road Map for Peace” negotiations.
Gavriel Brown: What did you think of Scarlett Johansson’s ad for the Israeli company SodaStream in the Super Bowl?
Danny Ayalon: It was very effective. She is a heroine for standing up to what she believes in.
GB: You have 30,000 followers on Twitter. What did you last tweet to them about?
DA: And I have 50,000 Facebook friends, if I can remind you. I told them about visiting Jewish high schools, which is a lot of what I do these days.
GB: In one sentence, can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?
DA: Absolutely. Nothing else. This is self-explanatory.
GB: You were on the executive board of the University of Ariel in the West Bank, one of the institutions at the center of a heated debate about academic boycotts protesting Israeli settlements. Are you concerned?
DA: Of course I am concerned! The war against Israel is no longer on the battlefield, it is in the political field and right now this has become a real threat to Israel and the Jewish people.
GB: Who are your heroes?
DA: I would say Moses, King David, David Ben Gurion, and Winston Churchill.
GB: Who are your favorite writers?
DA: How far back do I go? The Rambam [Maimonides], and this day in age, David Grossman.
GB: What is your most treasured object?
DA: My glasses. Without them I can’t see.
GB: Thoughts about Golan Restaurant?
DA: Not bad, not bad. To tell you the truth, I prefer the chicken shawarma here to the turkey shawarma in Israel. Less fat and more tasty.
GB: You said that you enjoyed learning at Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem when you lived in Israel. Have you spent time in YU’s Beit Midrash?
DA: I plan on doing night seder.
GB: In seven words or less, what is the course you are teaching at YC and Stern College about?
DA: Israel foreign policy in theory and practice. Seven on the first try.
GB: Have you noticed anything different about YU students?
DA: They are far more informed than most students I’ve met.
GB: What is a trait you most want to see in students?
DA: Inquisitiveness. This is a word in English?
GB: What one trait do you most want to see in a politician?
DA: Integrity…and leadership, so integriship to make that one word.
GB: You worked in the government, in Nefesh B’Nefesh, and many other organizations. Do you prefer the boardroom or the classroom?
DA: The classroom.
GB: Future plans?
DA: Returning to politics.
GB: What do you fear most?
DA: Sinat Chinam [baseless hatred] between Jews.
GB: When are you most at peace?
DA: Sitting in my garden in Hod Hasharon under my eucalyptus trees, like it says in Micha, “Every person will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one will be afraid, for the God told them.”
GB: What talent would you most want to have?
DA: To play the guitar. Never learned but I always wanted to learn.
GB: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
DA: It hasn’t been accomplished yet.
GB: What motto do you live by?
DA: Do it well or don’t do it at all.