Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement this August that he appointed Fiamma Nirenstein as Israel’s ambassador to Italy came as a happy surprise. I have known Fiamma Nirenstein for decades as a prominent Italian author, journalist, academician and diplomat, and a specialist in foreign affairs who has traveled through the Middle East and the world, dealing with major issues concerning Israel and world Jewry. I have also known her as a passionate Zionist, Israeli and Jew. I was happy that this active Jewish heroine has finally received the recognition and the power to act on a major stage.
Fiamma Nirenstein was born in Florence, the daughter of Aharon “Nir” Nirenstein, a Holocaust historian and long-time Al Hamishmar correspondent – who had gone to Eretz Yisrael in 1936 from Poland. After WWII he went to Italy with the British army’s Jewish Brigade. He married a young Italian journalist, Wanda Lattes, who worked for the local paper, Corriere della Sera, and made his home in Florence.
Their daughter Fiamma inherited the Zionist spirit and talent for writing from her parents. In Florence she completed her university studies in Modern History, and began a life of journalism and social activism. She became a leading columnist for the Italian daily “Il Giornale,” while simultaneously working as a correspondent from Israel for the daily “La Stampa” and the weekly “Panorama.” She and her husband, Ofer Eshed, a TV news videographer, divided their time between Rome and Jerusalem.
In the 2008 national elections in Italy, she was elected Member of the Parliament under the government of Silvio Berlusconi and served as Vice President on the Committee of Foreign Affairs, establishing and chairing the Committee for the Inquiry into Anti-Semitism of the Italian Parliament. During her parliamentary activity, she worked in many areas with a particular focus on Israel, human rights, international controversies, democratization in the Middle East, and awareness of Iranian nuclear capabilities. She was also a board member of the “Talmud Project,” a major initiative, sponsored by the Italian government, to translate the Babylonian Talmud into Italian.
If all this were not enough, Fiamma is also the author of ten books in Italian. In the prefaces to her two books in English she introduced Bernard Lewis, Nathan Sharansky and Ruthie Blum to the Italian readership. In addition, she has produced many documentaries for Italian TV, each shining a positive light on her beloved Israel. The last was titled, “Settlers,” and was about the disengagement from Gaza.
The names of her books reveal her dedication to Israel and the Jewish people: A Gerusalemme, (2012) the history of Jerusalem; Israele Siamo Noi (2007), which means Israel Is Us; La Sabbia di Gaza (2006) about the Disengagement; Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West (2005); Gli Antisemiti Progressisti (2004), a look at the new anti-Semitism; Islam, la Guerra e la Speranza (2003), an interview with Bernard Lewis and more.
Fiamma Nirenstein is larger than life, and a full account of her activities – journalistic, literary, political and diplomatic – plus, the numerous awards she had received, is beyond the scope of this column.
May she have G-d’s blessing in her new appointment and in her future activities for Israel and the Jewish people.