By Jon Platt
Israeli Deputy Consul Daniel Agranov’s goal, while in office, is to help people understand, what he calls, “the real Israel.”
Agranov, the new deputy consul general of Israel to the southwestern United States, visited Baylor on Thursday on a trip through Texas, one of the states he now corresponds with for Israel. He said Baylor was the first university stop he has made since taking the position in August. During his time on campus he spoke to members of Baylor Ambassadors and Baylor Civitas. He also met with Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr.
Dr. Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College, was in attendance for the address and said it was a great honor to have such a prestigious guest on campus.
“We’re especially grateful for him to spend time not just giving a speech, but answering questions,” Hibbs said. “I think his comments will spur conversations among students.”
Previously, Agranov served for three years as Israel’s second highest-ranking diplomat at a consulate that he helped to establish in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“I never felt home in Russia,” he said. “My home is in Israel and I was a representative of Israel. I never wanted to come back to Russia. But, with the opportunity, they sent me to Russia for my Russian.”
Agranov said he accepted the position as a consul to the U.S. because of the important relationship between America and Israel.
“It’s like 180 degrees difference between Russia and the United States and between St. Petersburg and Houston,” he said. “And I’m not talking about the weather only, of course.”
As a consul, Agranov said meeting with people is one of the major duties of his office and he hopes his interaction will help others to understand Israel in a more accurate light. Israel is not in a constant state of threat and heightened awareness like some may think, he said.
“This is the problem with the media,” he said. “It’s what you think about Israel when you read it or see it in pictures. When it’s quiet, nobody shows Israel or Tel Aviv. But, for example, you can go to Tel Aviv and walk in the night in Tel Aviv without a fear of the terrorists jumping out on you.”
He said he also wanted to represent the people of Israel fairly. While there are extremists in the country, he said most Israelis are normal people living normal lives.
“We’re not going out with our guns from our house, it’s a normal Western country with problems, yes,” Agranov said. “There are times that we have a terrorist attack like other Western democracies.”
Another misconception Agranov said he sees is that people seem to think once Israel and Palestine reach a peace agreement, the world’s problems will disappear. He said he does not think this is the case. There will still be hunger in Africa and war in the Middle East, he said.
“I think this is the major problem and major lie in the media,” Agranov said. “Because you can see, if you are following about what is happening in the world. For example, tomorrow we sign a peace agreement with Palestine, do you think the rebels in Syria will stop fighting, the problems in Libya will stop, Iran and Iraq will be quiet? All the region is boiling.”
Agranov said the ability to help make a difference and educate people is easier than ever thanks to the Internet and hyper-connectivity.
“In our time, it’s very easy,” he said. “It’s social media. Go, like five minutes a day, and read an article and read things that we post, for example, in our Facebook or our Twitter. Retweet it. Like it. Write something about it.”
Also in attendance was Tim Head, district director for congressman Bill Flores.
“In my mind, the alternate point of higher education is exposure to ideas,” Head said. “What better source to have than the man appointed to represent the country to us? He gave some good guiding principles for students.”
Agranov also said he heard of Baylor’s great football season and hopes for many more Baylor victories. He even performed a Sic ‘Em.