Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that George Deek is to be Israel’s next Ambassador to Azerbaijan, making him Israel’s first ever Christian Arab ambassador.

Deek, a highly acclaimed diplomat, joined the ministry in 2008, and served as deputy head of mission at Israel’s embassy in Norway from 2012 to 2015, and as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Nigeria from 2009-2012.

“We are proud of his appointment, which perfectly symbolizes the integration of Israelis from different backgrounds in the representation of the state,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority country, is extremely important for Israel, as it sits on Iran’s border and supplies some 40% of Israel’s oil. It also is one of Israel’s largest arms markets.

Deek was raised in a Christian Arab family in Yafo. When Israel was formed in 1948, Deek’s grandparents were advised to leave by neighbours who warned them that the Jews intended to kill any Arabs who remained. His grandparents left, became refugees, then later realised that they had been given false information. They walked for days back to Israel to find that their Arab neighbours were unharmed and happy. His grandparents chose to “believe Jews weren’t enemies and instead made new friends”.

Deek is not Israel’s first Arab ambassador – that distinction went to Ali Yahya, who was appointed Ambassador to Finland in 1995, and also served as Israel’s envoy to Greece.

Watch Deek tell his moving story below:

Read more at The Jerusalem Post