RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (JTA) — A Brazilian who made aliyah in the 1970s was appointed to Israel’s long vacant consul position in Sao Paulo.
Ilan Sztulman, 52, will take the post, which has been open for seven years, in South America’s largest metropolis.
Born in Sao Paulo, Sztulman migrated to Israel at the age of 18. He will leave his current position as deputy director of public affairs at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"In recent years, we have signed cooperation agreements in various areas," Sztulman said in interviews with the Brazilian press. "There is mutual good will and the environment is ideal to improve the relationship even further. Let’s draw these bilateral relations even closer."
Several Israeli diplomats objected to the appointment, saying that Sztulman has not been trained in a cadets’ course.
The Israeli Consulate in Sao Paulo has been closed since 2003 reportedly due to budget cuts; the embassy in Brasilia remained Israel’s only diplomatic representation in Brazil. The consulate general in Rio de Janeiro was shut down in 2002, but an honorary consul was named last year.
Besides serving Israeli tourists and business travelers, the consulate in Sao Paulo also will serve Brazilian tourists to Israel, including members of the Jewish community and Christian pilgrims.
"Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv are sister cities. There is a very important Jewish community in Sao Paulo," said Raphael Singer, an Israeli diplomat who works in the embassy in Brasilia.
Indeed, half of Brazil’s 120,000 Jews live in Sao Paulo. Another 40,000 Jews live in Rio de Janeiro and the rest are scattered across the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to visit Brazil in August.