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Early life and education
Hanan Aynor was born Hans Sonneborn in 1916 to Hermann Sonneborn and Antonia Samuel Sonneborn in Frankfurt, Germany. Aynor fled Nazi Germany in 1932 and after a few years in France joined, and was among the founders of Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov in pre-state Israel.
Since Hanan fled Nazi Germany in the middle of high school at age 16, he was unable to complete formal studies, nor attend university. He was proud to be self-educated. Hanan married Yaffa Puterman and had a child Ayala Procaccia and then later married Sarah Aynor (Skorohod). Sarah and Hanan met while she was working in a displaced persons camp in France after the Second World War. They had two children, Amos Aynor and Yael Aynor.
During World War II, Aynor served in the British Army behind enemy lines in occupied France. Following the war, Aynor joined the Aliyah Bet operations in Europe, aiding Holocaust survivors to reach Palestine. His roles were diverse, including serving as the official translator for the ship Exodus during the months that it was detained in the port of Marseille. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, Aynor joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Over the next four decades he served his country in Brazil, Canada, the United Nations, and twice, as head of the Ministry’s African desk. He also served as ambassador to Mexico, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia and Zaire.
In 1958, Golda Meir, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, appointed Hanan Aynor as the Head of her newly established section for technical cooperation in her Ministry. Aynor was responsible for its structure and activities. In 1960, the section became an independent department called the Department for International Assistance and Cooperation, whose name was later changed to the Center for International Assistance and Cooperation - MASHAV. Under Aynor's leadership, Mashav's scope and work grew and developed into a multimillion shekel enterprise with far reaching ramifications. In 2008, MASHAV marked fifty years of activity as a division of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since its establishment in 1958, under the initial guidance of Hanan Aynor, it has provided professional guidance for 230,000 course participants from 140 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where it has sent thousands of experts to launch projects.
Israel's success in initiating contacts with Africa was not only due to the initiative of Israeli leadership. It resulted in part by the support for Jews and Israel expressed by African thinkers at the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as by Heads of African countries that led their people to independence and believed they could profit from Israel's experience. Aynor was the last Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia before Haile Selassie broke relations with Israel under Arab pressure triggered at the time of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Aynor headed the Israel-Africa Friendship League until his death. During the many years of his work in and on behalf of Africa, Aynor formed a strong attachment to Ethiopia and dreamed of bringing its Jews to Israel. He died on December 15, 1993, in Jerusalem, Israel.
Foreign service postings
Hanan Aynor served a myriad of notable postings both within Israel and on behalf of the Israeli foreign service including:
- 1950: Consular section assistant
- 1950–1951: Assistant in the Western European Wing
- 1951–1954: Vice consul in Montreal, Canada
- 1954: Consular head in Montreal, Canada
- 1955–1958: First secretary in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- 1958–1959: First assistant in the Communications and Public Relations Division – Department of Education/Public Relations
- 1959–1960: Section director for international cooperation and assistance in the Communications and Public Relations Division – Department of Education/Public Relations (Mashav)
- 1960: Director of the Department of Communications and Public Relations – Department of Education/Public Relations
- 1960–1961: Israeli delegate to the Democratic Republic of Congo
- 1961–1964: Delegate in Israeli delegation to the UN, New York - (United States)
- 1964–1967: Ambassador to Dakar, Senegal. Ambassador to Gambia
- 1969–1971: African Department director
- 1971–1973: Ambassador to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- 1974–1977: Ambassador to Mexico City, Mexico
- 1977–1980: Africa Department director
- 1981–1982: Ambassador to Zaire
- Notes from Africa - Hanan S. Aynor - Publisher, Praeger, 1969. Original from, the University of Michigan. Digitized, Sep 8, 2006. Length, 163 pages.
- Relations between Israel and Asian and African states - Hanan S. Aynor, Shimon Avimor - Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Leonard Davis Institute for ...
- Africa In Crisis – Patrice Lumumba's Congo, Mobutu Sese Seko's Zaire. Hanan Aynor
Keren Hanan Aynor
Keren Hanan Aynor (Hebrew for: The Hanan Aynor Foundation) is Israel's most veteran and prestigious scholarship program for Israelis of Ethiopian descent. The organization was established by Sarah Aynor in 1994 in memory of her husband, former Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, the late Hanan Aynor. During his tenure as Israel's ambassador to Ethiopia from 1971–73, Aynor played a crucial role in making Ethiopian Jewry's Aliya to Israel a dream come true.
For the past two decades, the foundation has been instrumental in supporting first and second generations of this Aliya in acquiring higher education and as such, has been promoting a dynamic and influential group of young leaders who serve as role models for the Ethiopian Israeli community and Israeli society at large.
Since its inception, the organization has provided over 3,151 selected students with financial scholarships to support their education, as well as personal guidance, support and encouragement during the course of their studies to assist them in completing their degrees. Renowned alumni include, but are not limited to the current generation of community leaders – Shlomo Molla, former Knesset Member; Sigal Kanotopsky, CEO of "Olim Beyahad"; Mr. Asher Elias, social entrepreneur and founder of Tech-Career; Dr. Hadas Malade-Masersta, a physician in the Israeli Air Force; and Mr. Shai Fredo, theater and television actor.
Keren Aynor boasts a high success rate with more than 98% of the programs' participants successfully completing their studies. Hanan Aynor's vision and leadership live on in the legacy that is the Hanan Aynor Foundation.
- "Fifty Years of MASHAV Activity", Jewish Political Studies Review 21:3-4, fall 2009.
- Lenhoff, Howard M. Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews. Geffen Publishing House, 2007.
- Mallet, Eleanor. Tevye's Grandchildren: Rediscovering a Jewish Identity. Pilgrim Press, 2004.
- Peters, Joel. Israel and Africa: The Problematic Friendship. The British Academic Press, 1992.