In the video: Israeli Ambassador Hadas Misad at the "Israel Week" conference organized by Itzik Moshe in Tbilisi (Photo: Yoah Itiel)
At the entrance to the office of the Israeli businessman Itzik Moshe in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, there are two "gorillas", stern bodyguards waiting for an instruction from the receptionist at the entrance, confirming to them that it is okay to let me in.
It's an old-fashioned Soviet-style building near "Freedom Square", one of the main squares on the city's main street, which until the collapse of the Soviet Union was known as "Lenin Square".
Downstairs there is some kind of reception area for visitors to the building, the lighting is dim and the armchairs have battered upholstery that has seen better days.
The Israeli flag flies outside.
A month ago it became known that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards intended to eliminate him at the entrance of the building, an attempt that was thwarted by the Mossad and the Georgian intelligence services.
In every conversation on the subject Moshe broadcasts business as usual.
However, it is evident that the course of his life can already be divided into two, before the assassination attempt - and everything that followed.
When he left his office this week, there were four to six muscular security men around him at all times, very present, alert, constantly looking in all directions.
According to him, these days, 12 such security guards protect his personal safety on the street, in the car and at home - around the clock.
"It's like waiting for a bullet on the way. As a human being, it's hard and even impossible to live with this feeling, but I feel now that at any moment a bullet could come from some sniper on some roof", he describes the feelings that have accompanied him since then, 7/24.
"The first reaction was complete shock, but within minutes I took myself in my hands and calmed down. The next day, I internalized: I am being recruited for the country, an ordinary soldier on the battlefield, who does not have the luxury of abandoning the position. I hired security men and I only go around with bodyguards. I defended myself, I installed bars in the apartment, I added cameras at every possible point. My daughter wants me to walk around only with a safety net.
It's just like operating under the fire of battle."
Itzik Moshe, the businessman whom the Revolutionary Guards planned to eliminate in Georgia (photo: Walla! network, Yoav Itiel)
At the beginning of this month, the Washington Post published that the person who planned the assassination of Moshe is 46-year-old Shaharam Forsafi, who also uses the name Mehdi Razai, a member of the Revolutionary Guards who was also behind the attempt to assassinate John Bolton, who was former President Donald Trump's national security advisor.
"Based on the investigations, I don't believe they will stop trying to hurt me," he clarifies.
"Their decision was very clear - to stop my international Zionist activity."
Now, Moshe intends to appear at the trial of the 32-year-old assassin Amir "Sufian" Khan, which will open next Monday, to look him in the eye, and to make it clear that he is not afraid to confront him.
"If I need to reach him, I will reach him," he says, "I will ask him to explain to me why he wanted to murder me. This is the kind of thing I do so that the Georgians understand that there is Israeli justice. It is because of the advocacy I do, and that maybe I wouldn't do if I were a person Private".
"The Georgians expect me to be afraid, to run away, and I show that I don't. As someone who loves the country and believes in justice for Israel, then I will also use this time in court for advocacy," adds Moshe.
"It is simply unbelievable what this Pakistani said in his investigations, how he wanted to murder me with such a big knife, twice he almost did it, and on purpose wanted to murder me at the entrance to the building, next to the flag. In the victory photos that people will take, they will see both the flag and the murdered man and the pool of blood. It's clear that because I'm so well-publicized, they wanted something symbolic."
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"In terms of contributing to the State of Israel, I feel that I am doing enough and should not be in the Knesset."
Itzik Moshe (photo: official website, no)
According to Moshe, he knew nothing about the activity against him, and only when it was published in the Israeli media did he suspect that it was him.
"Only hours later it became known that I was the target and President Herzog called Hezek to say that he was proud of my activity here," he recalls.
"A few days later, the security services in Georgia summoned me, gave me more details and also told me to inform them of any suspicion of anything unusual. They do not update me on what they are doing, but from time to time I see their activities. You have to remember that they also have an interest in me I will continue to promote Georgia's relations with Israel."
He finances the increased security around him with his personal money, as well as all his activities for Israel in Georgia.
"I add it to the advocacy budget
I make at my own expense," he says, a budget he estimates at about $300,000 per year.
Moshe would have welcomed perhaps more cooperation with Israeli officials,
Milestones: childhood, the yeshiva that changed everything and the beginning of the journey
Itzik Moshe, who will celebrate 63 next week, was born in Georgia and immigrated to Israel with his family when he was 10 years old. They settled in Ashdod, and today he is a resident of Jerusalem, a childhood dream that he was able to fulfill.
He estimates that he is in the city about 10 percent of the time.
The rest of his time he divides between Georgia and international activities outside of it.
His wife accompanies him, his two children work with him.
It is largely a family business.
The family members take the new threat with less nonchalance.
His mother says that a month after their arrival, he stopped speaking Georgian in principle, and asked not to be spoken to in Georgian.
As a gifted and very talented child in mathematics, he jumped from 6th grade to 6th grade.
Moshe says that the beginning of the road was completely political, and already in the 10th grade, when he studied at the "Torah and craft" yeshiva in Kfar Avraham, he was elected chairman of the student council there.
The assassin Amir "Sufian" Khan tried to kill Itzik Moshe (photo: Walla! system, Yoav Ityel)
"I was a new immigrant, and I and some guys organized buses and went to Sebastia, to Alon Mora. I was among the first settlers, with Hanan Porat and Rabbi Levinger," he recalls.
Later he was in the academic reserve, studying electronic engineering which he later completed for a double degree from Tel Aviv University in engineering and educational sciences, and at the same time he was the chairman of the student union.
"I was the head of a section in Tiridan, and then the whole issue of 'Send my people' and the demonstrations started, and at the call of the student organization Vogues, I quit my job and went on my first mission. I stopped getting paid. I risked everything and went on my first mission to the Soviet Union, and opened the organization's first representative office there in 1989," he says.
"When the tender of the Jewish Agency came out, I won it, I moved to the agency and became the agency's first official representative in the Soviet Union, and I established the missions in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
"In my opinion, it was the yeshiva that changed my entire worldview, which is neither sectoral nor sectarian. I learned that in this yeshiva and there I became a perfect Israeli and very Zionist," he analyzes.
"I'm secular and even then I wasn't that religious, but my parents did a smart thing when they took me out of the diasporic group of immigrants who came to Israel from Russia and Georgia, sent me to a yeshiva from which I would only come home once a month. I think that's also the secret of my success, at Voges and at the agency Being Jewish, they didn't have to prepare me too much, because my love for the State of Israel gave me and still gives me the signs of the way - and directs me to what I need to do."
Current activity, in the shadow of the threats: "We are at the front of the battle"
"Of course I cooperate with organizations in Israel and around the world, but I am still the head of a private organization and I believe that if I were evacuated they would tell me that if I wanted to avoid danger, then I should return home," he says and clarifies that for him this is of course out of the question, because it would be a kind of confession in the victory of the Iranian enemy.
For example, despite the threat, last weekend he hosted a conference as part of what he calls "Israel Week", a security headache that would hardly have received official approval from Israeli security officials.
The Israeli flag flew in front of the Emirati-owned hotel where the conference was held, and buses stopped in front of it to collect and unload the participants, including Knesset member David Bitan, chairman of the Israel-Georgia Friendship Association in the Knesset, and an entourage of senior officials from local authorities who joined him, and who were joined by their wives. On the other hand, the Secretary General of Labor The former and the former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset on behalf of the party, Hilik Bar, and according to everything, at their personal expense.
"We didn't publish it early," says Moshe and also refers to the first article in the English-language newspaper "Georgia Today", which was probably not hidden from those who want to harass him: "We deliberately confused the places and times there. I explained the dangers to all the participants and they expressed a desire to come despite the situation, to show solidarity".
"I don't want to be in Israeli politics. Period."
Itzik Moshe (photo: official website, Beit Israel)
"I don't know how you can do something like this secretly," he says firmly.
"Our title is Israeli, whether when we bring lecturers to universities to teach about the Holocaust, or businessmen to do business with Georgians. I actually want to emphasize that these are Israelis who spent money to come to Georgia in order to build it and thus promote the bridges. I want indirectly through this to be treated towards Israel. So I don't know how all this can be done without advertising."
"What's more, there is security reinforcement from the institutions in Georgia as well. We are used to it. In Israel we are in a state of war all the time and it is dangerous to live, but we are at the front of the battle everywhere in the world," he claims.
"We know the world's attitude towards us, we know the nuances, and we are careful. Life goes on despite this. In a certain way, our situation is better now, because we know that there is a targeted threat and accordingly we prepare much better and are much more careful."
Exits and public relations: Itzik Moshe's oiled machine
When Itzik Moshe talks about publicity, he means especially public relations, and he is truly a tireless engine not only for advocacy for Israel, but also for his and his organizations' public relations.
He immediately took the delegation that came from Israel from the airport to show them the Holocaust park that he planted under the auspices of his "Beit Israel" and which has a commemorative plaque for the followers of the nations of the world, and in the background, tens of meters high, the figure of Anne Frank on the side of a terrible apartment block.
The members of the delegation took pictures against this background for an article praising his work and the conference, which will appear in the newspaper the next day.
"When Christian Georgian singers perform at a conference in Hebrew classical singing, it shows their identification with us, as we are partners in the conferences that Georgians do for Georgian children," he emphasizes.
"Of course, in such events, the Georgians point out that within the framework of Beit Israel, Israeli businessmen donate to Georgian children and people hear about it on the radio and television."
Moshe says that ten percent of the time he works for his livelihood, and the rest is dedicated to his Zionist work.
"I'm a little talented and the method works," he says with a smile that he uses frequently, "I'm in one type of business and that's hotel entrepreneurship."
He adds and enumerates a series of such projects, which he says provide him with the economic engine.
"My entire office deals with the issue of Israeli advocacy."
Itzik Moshe (photo: Walla! system, Yoav Itiel)
"When we make an exit, I put aside a million and a half dollars, for five years. It's money that I lock up, and then I work like a government body according to an annual budget. My entire office deals with the issue of information and relations and assistance to the Israelis," he explains.
And really, it's hard to find an Israeli doing business in Georgia who hasn't gone through his office.
This is a sort of Israel-Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Business of one person, plus a lobbyist, plus a listening ear.
For example, the office knows how to help couples with problems implementing a surrogacy procedure, or those who have come for plastic surgery or dental implants.
During the visit of the women of the "New Faces" association to the Georgian parliament, with three dominant members of parliament, they preface with words of thanks to Moshe.
who does not participate in the event at all, for allowing the meeting.
He is known everywhere in Georgia, his name comes up in every conversation about Israel, and in general, he is probably the best-known Israeli in the country.
He and the late Prime Minister Golda Meir, whose grandson Gidi he also recruited to give a lecture before the conference on the weekend.
Perhaps the assassination attempt did only good for public relations?
"In every bad thing there is also something positive. What I think happened is that al-Qaeda and the Quds Force recognized the extent of my activity, and this influenced many institutions in Israel who understood that I was indeed busy doing things, and that I was neither a political businessman nor a party activist, someone who did not run in the elections for the Knesset And not to one municipality or another," says Moshe.
"They understood that this is purely Zionist activity. In general, in terms of contributing to the State of Israel, I feel that I am doing enough and do not need to be in the Knesset. 90 percent of the pro-Israeli activities in the world are carried out by organizations and individuals who are not in the Knesset, and some of whom do not even live in Israel. The Knesset should support this activity, but I do not I need to be in the Knesset. I don't want to be associated with any party and I don't want to be in Israeli politics. Period."
An unusual letter to the Georgians: the friction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Itzik Moshe wants to standardize his model, and copy it to other countries as well.
Some of his radical ideas are puzzling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, such as his proposal to appoint as honorary consuls for information Israeli citizens who live abroad and are willing to spend about $300,000 a year on information, in the countries where they live, like him. Moshe believes that thousands of Israelis around the world will be willing to commit to this, and he suggests that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should clarify among them, provide them with the contents and monitor their activities.
Thus, according to him, a significant force multiplier can be mobilized, literally overnight, with almost zero budget from the state treasury. But in the face of this supposedly simple idea, he repeats it again And again, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs points out that this is not at all possible and that Israeli citizens cannot be appointed honorary consuls. Moshe and his people disagree on this matter. Another point of friction with the Ministry.
"President Herzog called Hezek and said he was proud of my activity here."
Itzik Moshe (photo: Walla! system, Yoav Itiel)
Indeed, the person who does not like the activities of Itzik Moshe, is actually the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in a very official way.
Two years ago, in an unusual official diplomatic letter, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned its Georgian counterpart that Moshe's organizations do not represent the Israeli government in any way, and even added that beyond that, "a number of aspects of their activity may have devastating consequences for the good of the countries' mutual relations."
This warning is still in effect, and since then, perhaps unprecedentedly, a message "rooted" in a similar vein appears at the top of the Facebook page of the Israeli Embassy in Georgia, warning against "Beit Israel" and the "Israel-Georgia Chamber of Commerce", and clarifying that they do not represent the government Israel or any other Israeli official body: "These organizations are not authorized to carry out any formal activity related to official contacts, state representation, providing advice and/or information related to any level of relations between Israel and Georgia."
The announcement also warns that "anyone who turns to these two organizations for advice and assistance does so at his own risk."
Hilik Bar, whose response appears among dozens of responses under this warning, wrote that "as an Israeli who loves Georgia and as someone who led the friendship delegation between the Knesset and the Georgian parliament, I am honestly ashamed to see that an Israeli embassy writes such a post."
According to him, the two organizations led by Moshe "
Moshe says that even at the beginning of his career "not so much" they liked his activity, "once the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, once Nativ and the liaison office and once the agency".
For this, among other things, he published the book, 'Zionism Against the Current'", which tells the story of the Georgian immigration to Israel, and at the beginning of it appears the blessing of the President of the State as the chairman of the Jewish Agency, Yitzhak Herzog, who calls Moshe, "one of the leaders of the campaign".
It is evident that Moshe himself is very hurt by the hostile attitude towards him, even though he consistently refrains from responding to the diplomatic warning against him and prefers to divert the conversation to express optimism that everything will change, after the recent appointment of a new Israeli ambassador to Georgia, Hadas Midas.
Indeed, despite the warnings on the embassy's website, through Bitan's mediation the ambassador actually arrived at the conference and was received with due respect.
She did not speak, entered the hall after the speeches began and left before they ended, thus avoiding handshakes, and yet, a milestone in the restoration of relations, which perhaps indicates hope for the future.
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