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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey/ Amit Matityau talks about Israel's recent elections at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga on Sept 24. Matityau is the newest shaliach at the federation to promote Israeli culture.
some text Staff photo by Wyatt Massey/ Amit Matityau talks about Israel's recent elections at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga on Sept 24. Matityau is the newest shaliach at the federation to promote Israeli culture.

Chattanooga residents had the opportunity to learn from the newest shaliach Tuesday night during his first public presentation at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga. Amit Matityau discussed the ongoing political stalemate in Israel.

After elections in April, Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition out of the various political parties to create a majority in the country's 120-seat Knesset. The failure led to a second election in mid-September with similar outcomes and no clear leader for a coalition or prime minister.

During his presentation, Matityau explained the situation and laid out potential options for Israel, including a right-wing coalition, a left-wing coalition, a united government or a possible third election in early 2020.

The 25-year-old will spend at least a year in the Chattanooga community leading events and educating the Jewish and non-Jewish community on Israeli topics, such as Israeli culture, daily life, politics, history and holidays.

The role of a shaliach is to be an Israeli cultural emissary, or ambassador, in various communities. More than 10,000 people apply for the roles each year, according to The Jewish Agency for Israel, the international organization that placed Matityau in Chattanooga.

If you go

Amit Matityau’s next public presentation will be Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga at 5461 N. Terrace Road.

Applicants to the program are under 30 years old and have completed their national or military service in Israel. They are trained at the Shlichut Institute before being sent around the world to synagogues, schools and community groups.

Matityau has worked with at-risk youth in Israel and said coming to the United States through the program will help him grow.

"I felt that this is my journey to tell my story and be connected with people," Matityau said.

There are other shaliachs in Nashville, Atlanta and Jacksonville, but in many of the more urban areas there are multiple shaliachs. Matityau is on his own in Chattanooga, where he arrived about a month ago. Despite having visited the United States as a teenager, Matityau said he experienced some culture shock in transitioning to an English-only culture and needing to rely on a car more than public transportation in Chattanooga.

Matityau, the oldest of three children, enjoys hiking, traveling and watching sports, so he hopes to incorporate some outdoor activities in his work in Chattanooga, he said.

Part of being a shaliach involves interacting with the non-Jewish community, too, said Ann Treadwell, program director for the Jewish Federation. Previous shaliachs have visited civic groups, churches and schools to talk about Israel and other topics.

The Federation has run a shlichim program for nine years, hosting seven people, Treadwell said. The federation interviews potential candidates in the program to come to Southeast Tennessee.

"Sometimes, we have to advocate for Chattanooga because schaliachs want to go to bigger cities," she said.

The local area benefits from the program because he shaliach brings Israel to Chattanooga, allowing people in the community to learn about a different culture and understand a place to greater depth than what is often depicted in the news media, Treadwell said.

Matityau's next presentation will be Oct. 24, when he will talk about his time growing up in Sderot, a city near Gaza that is often the target of missiles launched from Gaza. His presentations are open to the public.

From the reporter

I became a journalist to help people see people as people. But highlighting the human side of every policy decision, and how it is affecting your community, takes time as well as support from readers. If you believe in telling the stories of people in your community, please subscribe to the Times Free Press today. Contact me at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Find me on Twitter at @News4Mass.

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