Reuven Merhav | Fellow
Ambassador (R) Reuven Merhav was born in Israel in 1936 to a family lucky enough to leave Germany in time. He completed military service as a paratrooper N.C.O. and worked in Kibbutz Devir’ in the Negev, southern Israel.
From 1957 until 1961 he studied Middle Eastern history, Arabic (language, literature), Islamic Civilization and languages at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, of which he is a graduate. In 1959/60 he presided over the National Union of Israeli Students. In 1983/84 he studied at the Graduate School of History at the Tel Aviv University.
From 1961 until 1993 he was a civil servant – in the Security and Intelligence community and in the Foreign Service, reaching senior positions, in Israel and abroad (Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Teheran, Beirut, Hong Kong), specializing in sensitive questions of the Horn of Africa, the extended Middle East and East Asia. From Hong Kong he pioneered ties with the P.R.C; later on, as director general of the MFA (1988-1991) he finalized the 1989 Taba agreement with Egypt, established the first Israeli mission in Beijing in 1990 and laid the foundations for “Operation Solomon” – the rescue of Ethiopian Jews in 1991. In 1992/93 he served as director general of the ministry of Immigrants Absorption, devoting efforts to the Ethiopian Community.
Since 1993 he has served on various public committees and bodies:
• The National Court of Labour, the Supreme Governmental Appointments Committee
• In August 2010 – appointed as member of Justice Turkel Commission to investigate the May 2010 incident of off the Gaza shore.
• Chair and BOG member of academic – Valley of Yezreel Academic College – and public institutions and companies.
• Chair of an educational project aimed at advancing Ethiopian youth
Public and Jewish related activity:
• As of 2001 – member of the executive committee of the “Council for Peace and Security,” a non-partisan body of former senior I.D.F., Intelligence Community and Foreign Affairs officials, academics and experts, committed to promotion of regional secure peace arrangements.
• As of 2005 – chair of the Presidium of The Association of Israelis of Central European Origin, an association devoted to the social wellbeing and the preservation of the heritage and contribution to the State of Israel of that community.
• In that capacity – nominated (2006) to the BOD of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (The Claims Conference) and elected as the chair of the CC executive committee.
• In 2009 – appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare the Israeli delegation to the Holocaust Era Assets Conference (HEAC), convened in Prague in June 2009 under the auspices of the Czech Republic. During the preparations he has initiated breakthrough norms regarding heirless properties in East European countries: considering the use of the proceeds of these properties, mostly Jewish, for the welfare of needy survivors and Sho’ah education and research purposes, later included in the Best Practices and Guidelines for future action. In recognition of that achievement he was awarded a Medal of Merit by the President of the Czech Senate, and appointed special advisor to the Head of ESLI – European Sho’ah Legacy Institute in Prague, the monitoring organ for HEAC resolutions.
Academic, research and teaching activity:
As of 1993 – fellow of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) worked on Jerusalem-related issues and played a leading role in developing metropolitan and political options within a permanent status agreement. In that capacity he was called by P.M Barak for advice to the July 2000 Camp David summit.
From 1999 until 2007 he was member of OTRI – the Operational Theory Research Institute (IDF- Ops. Branch organ) as an advisor and tutor on geo-political subjects.
From 2006 until 2008 he taught at the Hebrew University Federmann Graduate School for Public Administration.
Publications, overseas contacts and media
• He has authored, co-authored* and reviewed publications on Jerusalem, Middle East, Ethiopia and China-Israel-related questions, and maintains contacts with various Israeli and overseas institutes and has actively participated in numerous conferences.
• He is occasionally invited by local and foreign media to offer views and commentary on current, regional and international affairs.
He is fluent in Hebrew, English and German, has a working knowledge in French, Arabic and Persian and has basic knowledge of Italian, Turkish, Yiddish and Amharic.