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Israel completes purchase of new residence for its ambassador in Washington

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Mike Herzog will soon move into an 11-bedroom, 12-bathroom official residence in Washington's Forest Hills neighborhood

Sotheby's

The residence in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

After nearly a decade without a permanent residence for its ambassador in Washington, Israel has finally purchased a house, a source at the Israeli Embassy in Washington confirmed to Jewish Insider on Wednesday.

According to Israeli media reports, the house, which is in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Northwest Washington, is currently an 11-bedroom, 12-bathroom abode, replete with a grand foyer and a bifurcated staircase, in addition to a gym, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. It also has a home theater, a wine cellar and a game room, according to property specs advertised by Sotheby’s. The property was listed for $10 million.

Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog, who has been living in hotels and rental properties since taking up the post in November 2021, will likely move into the official residence within the next month, the source, who is knowledgeable about the details, said. The property will undergo some renovations, including the removal of the sauna and jacuzzi, to make it more suitable to house an ambassador.  

“After almost 10 years of temporary housing, the State of Israel has decided to purchase an official residence to provide a long-term solution for its ambassador,” the embassy source told JI.

Since 2013, Israel has rented properties for its ambassador after the former official residence was abandoned due to unlivable conditions. The previous house owned by the Israeli government, which was used by every Israeli ambassador to the U.S. since the 1960s, including Yitzhak Rabin, was located on Chesapeake Street NW.

The Chesapeake Street house was condemned and eventually torn down. The plot where it once stood remains abandoned, and the neighbors are known to have complained to the embassy about the empty lot, Israeli media has reported. That plot of land was sold as part of the deal to purchase the new residence, the embassy source explained.  

In a previous interview with JI, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called the old residence on Chesapeake Street “decrepit.”

“There were termites and mold,” he said of the house where he lived for four years. Oren recalled to JI how he woke up one morning to an entire floor covered in termite larvae.

“Walls would crack and a terrible smell would emanate from inside, part of the roof caved in,” he said.  

Oren also explained that the ambassador’s residence was traditionally used as a facility to host large-scale events and important meetings with attachés, diplomats, members of the administration and the press. The Israeli Embassy compound in D.C. is too small for such large gatherings, including events such as the Israel Independence Day celebrations or those marking the Jewish holidays, he said.

Oren’s successor, Ron Dermer, requested not to live in the former residence, partly because of the poor condition of the house but also because he wanted to be closer to an Orthodox synagogue in Maryland. He opted to live in a house that cost the state about $15,000 a month.

For the past two years, Herzog and his wife have lived in a rental, a penthouse apartment that cost about $25,000 a month. Recently, he was informed by his landlords that they are terminating the contract and that he would have to leave the apartment, Israel’s Kan 11 News reported.

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