In her role as director of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Action Center, Noa Meir aims to broaden the pro-Israel tent by reaching out to everyone from left-leaning J Street Jews to Bibi-loving Likudniks. She has been at the Israel Action Center for more than a year, and in that time she has brought her expertise and passion for the Jewish state to the Washington-area community.
When Meir, who has dual citizenship — Israel and United States — speaks at synagogues and other institutions, she tells Jewish and non-Jewish audiences that one can be pro-Israel and care about the safety and security of the Israeli people regardless of whether one supports the current prime minister or government.
Prior to her current position, Meir completed a one year appointment as the Jewish Agency Israel fellow to George Washington University Hillel. From 2005 to 2012, she served in the Israel Defense Forces as a spokesperson and in various other roles, attaining the rank of major. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bar Ilan University and a master’s degree in diplomacy and security from Tel Aviv University.
The daughter of an Israeli diplomat, Meir lived in countries where her father was stationed. Born in Rockville, she spent time as a child in Ottawa and London when not in Jerusalem.
Meir recently stopped by the Washington Jewish Week to talk about what it means to be pro-Israel, visiting Rome while her father was Israeli ambassador to Italy and the differences between dating in Tel Aviv and Washington.
What was the biggest culture shock coming as an Israeli to America?
I first see myself as Israeli — actually, first Jewish, then Israeli, then American. And even though I wasn’t expecting any culture shocks, there were plenty. I’ve lived outside of Israel and worked with Americans my whole adult career when I was in Israel, and still, coming here as an adult was very different. I think the first shock was the abundance of everything. And, Israelis don’t tend to plan ahead, and sort of roll with the punches, and here it doesn’t work that way. I think the really first shock was how you have to plan everything ahead of time. Even a coffee date needs to be planned two weeks ahead.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging is the most rewarding and vice-versa. It’s really trying to bring Israel to people who wouldn’t otherwise hear of Israel or have a negative view or are sort of on the fence, and showing them that it is so much more complicated and there is so much more to it. Even among the community here, which is really overall, from what I’ve met, very pro-Israel, there are so many different ways of being pro-Israel, and it’s very important for me to get that message across and for people to understand that just because you don’t agree with the prime minister or with his policy doesn’t make you any less pro-Israel. There are people in Israel who didn’t vote for him and are very pro-Israel and vice-versa.
Your father, Gideon Meir, is the former Israeli ambassador to Italy. What was it like visiting him in Rome?
He served there when I was already in the IDF. That was the one posting I wasn’t taken to. But I got to visit him 10 times. Rome was absolutely gorgeous. I was very fortunate I got to visit my parents while they served there for 5½ years, and it was also amazing to see the respect that they had for my father as an Israeli ambassador. To have the politicians at the time on Israel’s side was very heartwarming. I also had the privilege and honor of meeting two of Italy’s prime ministers.
How is the dating scene in Washington compared to Tel Aviv?
The dating scene is difficult regardless of where it is – Tel Aviv or D.C. It probably goes the same for all around the world. I won’t start comparing Israeli men to the American men, although that could be a whole interview unto itself. As someone who is recently single, I will say that it is a challenge to be back in the dating scene, maybe even bigger of a challenge than being director of the Israel Action Center.