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New Israeli Envoy to Pretoria

The appointment of Joseph Hermelin as Israel’s next Ambassador to South Africa, has been confirmed in Pretoria and Jerusalem. He will assume his new past in August, succeeding Yitzhak Unna. The 57-year-old diplomat-soldier most recently served as Israel’s unofficial envoy to Iran, a task of extreme difficulty while the anti-Israel revolutionary forces of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were rampaging through the streets of Teheran. It has been learned, meanwhile, that South Africa and Iran have maintained their trade links despite the change of regime.

Hermelin, born in Austria, was a farmer and a member of the Maccabi swimming club in Vienna before World War II. He escaped after the Nazi takeover and joined the Jewish Brigade which fought with the Allies during the war. Later. he served as a Captain in Israel’s army in the War for independence in 1948. His wife, Sarah also served in the army and was the first woman to rise to the rank of Major.

In preparation for his duties in South Africa, Hermelin is studying Afrikaans, one of the two official languages of the country. His predecessor’s fluency in that language gained him great popularity with South Africans.

Before leaving South Africa, Unna, in an interview with the leading Afrikaans daily, Die Burger, said that on Israeli Ambassador here should not forget the Jewish people’s “experiences in facing up to the problems of south Africa. Bear in mind the differences as well as the similarities” between Israel and South Africa, he said.

“Even while being critical, remember that you are a guest in a foreign land.” Unna said he would advise future Israeli Ambassadors. “Be well versed in South Africa’s sociological and historical development, and get a feel for its contemporaneous literary trends. It helps greatly, not least when sounding critical of the country’s leading echelons, to speak Afrikaans.”

While Unna acknowledged a fresh movement for change in the new government of Premier Piet Botha, he criticized what he termed the inept methods of checking the identification papers of Blacks by government officials. “I do feel that I am my brother’s keeper,” he said

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