The ‘Brit Pack’ at the heart of power in Israel

Young, energetic advisers and spokespeople born in Britain are flying high at the very top of the Israeli establishment


A new “Brit Pack” of young, energetic advisers and spokespeople born in Britain is flying high at the very top of the Israeli establishment.

Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan, told the JC: “I can’t claim any credit but we are definitely enjoying it.”

The growing band of British Jews who have been selected for plumb jobs in the Israeli government machine was swelled further last month with the appointment of Glaswegian Richard Hecht as the IDF’s top international media spokesperson.

Although Lieutenant-Colonel Hecht is no newcomer to the state -— he has lived in Israel since 1983, when his family made aliyah from Scotland — his accent remains Glaswegian.

Discussing his move to Israel, he said: “Our parents wanted to make a new start, I think they were tired of the diaspora. But it was traumatic: we left a very comfortable lifestyle to live in spartan Israel in the 80s.”

Living on a kibbutz on the Golan, he and his siblings were forced to sleep away from his parents in the children’s quarters. That experience “made us Israelis”, he told the Jewish News.

After starting his army career in a combat unit in the West Bank and on the Lebanese border, Lieutenant-Colonel Hecht worked his way up the ranks, shifting between various foreign relations and combat posts.

Alongside him serve Keren Hajioff, spokesperson for Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and Yair Zivan, the premier’s long-term foreign affairs adviser. Fellow Briton Jonathan Cummings, meanwhile, is international adviser to Israeli Labour leader Merav Michaeli.

Mark Regev, who acted as Israel’s ambassador to Britain between 2016 and 2020, said the cohort demonstrates the strength of the Jewish community in Britain.

He said: “It’s great to see so many highly talented young Brits impacting Israel at the highest levels of government.

“Their success is a testament to the quality of leadership coming out of UK Jewry, and emblematic of the opportunities that exist in Israel where with energy, intelligence and commitment you can reach the top.”

Ms Hajioff arrived in Israel more recently, making aliyah 13 years ago when she was 19 and could speak barely a word of Hebrew.

The former Hasmonean High School student now works at the heart of Israel’s government.

After volunteering in the IDF as a “lone soldier”, she worked as an IDF spokesperson during the 2014 Gaza War, before becoming head of public diplomacy in 2016, and head of social media in 2018.

Last year she got her dream job: international spokesperson for the PM. She said: “I take great pride in coming from such a strong and vibrant Jewish community in the UK and am grateful to it for having shaped me into the person I am today. Serving the State of Israel will forever be a privilege.”

When former premier Naftali Bennett stepped down, Ms Hajioff was asked to remain in her key role by Mr Lapid.

Also at the centre of the Israeli state is Eylon Aslan-Levy, who serves as President Isaac Herzog’s International Media Adviser. He first came to prominence almost a decade ago, when strident anti-Zionist politician George Galloway refused to debate with him because of his Israeli nationality. 

Writing for the Times of Israel, Mr Aslan-levy said living in Israel was a “rebellion against inertia”. He said: “Life is not defined by security, but the maddening vertigo of standing on the edge of a cliff.”

He added: “For immigrants from the Anglo-sphere it makes no sense, and it’s the brilliant confrontation with that sheer audacity that makes life so vibrant. In short, for better or worse, Israel is everything England is not.”

Mr Aslan-Levy told the JC: “It’s a real privilege to work for the president, and specifically this president. 

“President Herzog’s agenda is all about promoting civil discourse in Israeli society, seriously tackling the climate crisis, and strengthening Israel’s friendships around the world — and that’s an agenda I’m really proud to get behind.”

In a blog he wrote for the Times of Israel, Mr Aslan-Levy revealed that when he meets British immigrants to Israel he always asks them one simple question: “Why did you make aliyah, are you crazy?”

In his own case, maybe not so crazy.

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