Israelis You Should Know: Yehuda Avner
The Fellowship | March 24, 2017
Lived: December 30, 1928 – March 24, 2015
Known for: An Israeli advisor, diplomat, and author, Yehuda Avner served under Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres.
Why you should know him: Yehuda Avner was born Lawrence Haffner to a Jewish family in Manchester, England. He was active in Bnei Akiva, the religious Zionist movement for young people, and committed to a Jewish state. In Britain, he experienced anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitic rioting in 1947. That year, he graduated from high school and moved to Jerusalem, then still part of British-mandate Palestine.
During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Avner fought in the Siege of Jerusalem. The next year, having helped Israel win its independence, he founded Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee. He then moved back to Britain for a short while, working as National Director for Bnei Akiva, and marrying his wife Mimi in 1953. The couple returned to Israel the next year, and would have four children.
Settling in Jerusalem in 1956, Avner joined the Israeli Foreign Service in 1958. For more than two decades, he would work for five Israeli prime ministers – as speechwriter and secretary for Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol, as well as advisor to Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres.
Because of his position as a top political aide in many administrations, Avner not only witnessed how Israel’s government worked from the inside, he was present for such historical moments as Operation Entebbe, Operation Opera, and the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.
Avner also served at the Israeli Consulate in New York and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In 1983, he was appointed Ambassador to Britain and the Republic of Ireland, returning to Israel in 1988. He then served as Israel’s Ambassador to Australia from 1992 to 1995.
Aside from his long career in Israeli politics, Avner also wrote several books, including The Young Inheritors: A Portrait of Israel’s Children and a historical novel, The Ambassador. His memoir of years spent in Israeli politics, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, became a bestseller, described by Benjamin Netanyahu as “provid[ing] insight into the actions of our nation’s leaders and offer[ing] important lessons for the future,” and by The Jerusalem Post as “the ultimate insider’s account.”
Yehuda Avner died in 2015 at the age of 86. Remembering Avner’s later years, which were every bit as busy and in service of his nation and people, his brother-in-law wrote:
“His retirement years were spent in voluntary activities, serving on the boards of several national charities and involving himself in the needs of underprivileged groups.”