Competition for postings to Los Angeles is fierce within the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and two young diplomats who made the grade, Yaron Gamburg and Gilad Millo, have joined the staff of the consulate general here.
Gamburg, 34, has taken over the post of deputy consul general, the No. 2 man after Ehud Danoch, and is concentrating on political and security issues, as well as relations with the Latino, Korean, Russian, Israeli and Persian communities.
Born in the Ukrainian city of Zhitomir, the hometown of the great Hebrew poet Hayyim Nahman Bialik and 60 percent Jewish before the Holocaust, Gamburg made aliyah to Israel at age 18.
After earning a master's degree in political science at the Hebrew University, Gamburg worked on immigrant absorption before joining the Foreign Ministry.
His first major assignment was a three-year stint as spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Moscow, followed, for the last two years, as director of the Foreign Ministry's cadet course, a kind of basic training for future diplomats.
Reflecting the attractiveness of the career diplomatic service, some 2,500 Israelis apply for jobs each year, of whom only some 20 are accepted, Gamburg said.
Close to 1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, like Gamburg himself, have had an enormous impact on Israeli society and the economy. They make up some 40 percent of the work force in Israel's high-tech sector, outnumbering all past and present Technion graduates.
Gamburg is married to Delphine, a native of France, and their son, Tal, has just celebrated his first birthday.
Gilad Millo, the new consul for communications and public affairs, was literally born into the foreign service. His father, Yehuda Millo, served 37 years as an Israeli diplomat, including as ambassador to Italy, and young Gilad was raised, two or three years at a time, in Bonn, London, New York, Ankara and Jerusalem.
He did not immediately follow in his father's footsteps, starting off as a singer in the Israeli rock band, White Donkey, and then as a television reporter and editor on the foreign news desk of Israel's independent Channel 2.
Millo, also 34, joined the Foreign Ministry three years ago, initially serving as its youngest spokesman. During the past two years, he has been the deputy head of the Israeli mission to Kenya and six other African nations.
During his term, he initiated extensive food relief projects for malnourished African children and was the driving force in the formation of the African Women's Forum for Israel.
Besides media relations, Millo is also responsible for academic and cultural affairs, and he is visibly frustrated that practically all the news headlines about Israel in the United States are about the conflict with the Palestinians and terrorism.
"Media reporting on Israel seems to follow the rule, 'If it bleeds, it leads,'" he said. "In reality, Israel is a fascinating place. We are leaders in technology and agriculture, we have great universities and wonderful beaches.
"There are stories to be told about our business initiatives, the environment, what we're doing to help developing countries, how we've dealt with masses of immigrants, and so forth," he emphasized.
Millo met his wife, Hadas, while both were serving in the army, and they have two children, Omer, 6, and 2-year-old Lisa.
The jurisdiction of the Los Angeles-based consulate includes Southern California, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.