Dave the Mensch

October 5, 2018 by  
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In June 2016, the day after two Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israelis in the bustling Tel Aviv Sarona Complex, Dave Sharma took his entire Embassy team to Sarona for lunch, in a show of solidarity and support with Israel…writes Arsen Ostrovsky.

Arsen Ostrovsky

At the time, I messaged Dave to say what a touching gesture it was and how deeply it was appreciated in Israel. Dave replied simply: “It’s heartfelt for us – you know how much we love and care for you guys.”

In November 2014, immediately after the Har Nof Massacre, in which two Palestinian terrorists murdered six Israelis at a Synagogue in Jerusalem, Dave got in his car and drove an hour to Hadassah Medical Centre, to donate blood. “That’s what people in Australia do in response to a major human tragedy”, he said at the time.

And when Israel came under attack from Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, Dave hosted local Israeli businesses to sell their wares in his Residence, as a show of solidarity with Israel’s community in the south.

Because that’s just the kind of guy Dave is – a mensch!

I was privileged to get to know Dave during his term as Australia’s Ambassador to Israel (2013 – 2017). I observed him first-hand at public events and in private conversations we had over a beer or some local Israeli food, which he loved. And I can say without a shadow of a doubt, Dave is a real mate of Israel and the Jewish community, who just ‘gets it.’

He gets that Israel faces an array of security challenges from every border (and beyond), and that despite the Jewish state’s best effort at reaching peace, Hamas and the Palestinian terror groups make this impossible.

Ambassador Dave Sharma donates blood in Israel

But he also understands there is a natural alliance between Australia and Israel, with historical roots grounded in the heroic ANZACS of World War I, who left an indelible mark on the Jewish state’s founding. Dave has said “Israel is the only country in the Middle East that truly shares our values. It’s a country that you can feel at home and it’s because of the values and the interests we share are much the same.”

He even helped coin, or put new meaning to the term ‘Ozraeli’, combining what he said was a way “to capture what is best about Australia, Israel and our friendship and partnership … in deed rather than word, what makes our two nations great.”

It is this understanding, and in large part due to Dave’s tireless personal effort, that relations between our two nations have never been stronger, with Australia, under the Liberal – Coalition government, becoming one of the staunchest allies of the Jewish state in the international arena.

This just a glimpse of some of the impressive bilateral achievements during Dave’s term as Ambassador:

  • Prime Minister Netanayhu’s historic visit to Australia, the first ever by a sitting Israeli PM, with a reciprocal visit to Israel by former Australian PM (and Dave’s Wentworth predecessor) Malcolm Turnbull. There were also many additional high-level visits by Australian leaders, including NSW Premier Mike Baird.

 

  • Establishing of ‘Landing Pads’ in Tel Aviv, a signature innovation initiative of the Liberal Government, giving Australian Start-Ups global access, including by learning best practices from the Israeli tech ecosystem to help strengthen Australia’s economy.

 

  • New working visas created, allowing greater ease of travel and work for young Israelis and Australians to each other’s countries.

 

  • Launching negotiations for a double taxation agreement, which allow for greater investment flow and boost in high-tech trade.

 

  • Assisting Holocaust survivors in Israel, which was particularly noteworthy for the fact Australia also has per capita, outside Israel, the most number of Holocaust survivors.

 

  • A highly successful centenary commemoration, led by PM Turnbull, of the historic Battle of Beersheva in Israel.

 

  • Shedding a light on international NGOs and Palestinian Authority misusing international aid money for the purposes of supporting incitement and violence, which has led to Australia directly cutting funds to such groups.

 

  • In the wake of U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem, Dave voiced his personal support for the decision, calling on Australia likewise to consider recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

 

  • Australia becoming one of the staunchest allies of the Jewish state in the international arena, most notably at the United Nations, where Australia courageously voted against one-sided and biased resolutions against Israel. This can be contrasted with the former Labour governments, at best, equivocal support, and currently under some elements of the Labour party, most notably led by former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, outright hostility towards the Jewish state.

But Dave, who in the classic Aussie sense, has an incredibly laid-back, sincere and affable personality, naturally making a personal connection with anyone he meets, also has a tremendously powerful personal story, that should resonate strongly with the Wentworth electorate, a very multifaceted community, entrepreneurial, forward looking and filled with many inspiring immigrant success stories, especially from the Jewish community.

Dave who was born in Canada, to a father of Indian background and an Australian mother (whom he lost to breast cancer at a young age), grew up in Sydney, before going on to study in Cambridge and devoting his life to public service at the highest echelon, saying this experience only reinforced his belief in “family, self-reliance and a desire to help”.

Dave has said that “I think my story would only be possible in Australia. To go from being an immigrant to Australia to an Ambassador for Australia in the space of a single generation.”

These are values which very much describe Wentworth, especially the history of the Jewish community, which so many can relate to.

In a highly divided and fractured Parliament, we need more leaders like Dave Sharma – inspiring, successful, honest and committed to a better future for all.

In one of his last official functions in Israel, before ending his term as Ambassador in 2017, Dave said (in Hebrew mind you): “Israel will always be in our hearts. Israel will always be in our soul. We’ll carry it with us wherever we go.”

Indeed, Dave has proven this in both word and deed, continuing his strong connection with the Jewish state in the private sector following the end of his term as Ambassador.

Dave’s support for Israel and appreciation of the Jewish community, however, transcends just the pragmatic. It’s in his ‘kishkes’, his guts. This is a support he is sure to continue as a leading voice in Parliament in support of Israel and the special inextricable bond with Australia.

Arsen Ostrovsky is the Executive Director of The Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC). Arsen, who grew up in Wentworth, where he was active in the Jewish community, currently lives in Israel, where he continues to promote and support Israel – Australian bilateral relations.

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