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Dina Orenbach of the Israel Ministry of Tourism: “Given everything that is going on in the world”

Given everything that is going on in the world, to stay sane I try to consume news in what I term as “a moderate way.” There is just so much information that flows around us constantly, I personally find that interacting with it too much can have a very negative effect on me sometimes. This […]

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Given everything that is going on in the world, to stay sane I try to consume news in what I term as “a moderate way.” There is just so much information that flows around us constantly, I personally find that interacting with it too much can have a very negative effect on me sometimes. This is why I am careful with how much time I spend reading the news. I know some people feel the opposite way, though, where always being in the know has a comforting effect on them. It’s important to evaluate your own emotional response to the news as a medium for consumption and adjust your relationship to it to safeguard your own mental health to the greatest extent possible.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dina Orenbach.

Dina Orenbach is the Consul and Director of the Western Region of the United States for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, which is based in Los Angeles. In 2020, despite the challenging world circumstances, she accepted the position of Consul-Director to the Western Region and moved her family across the globe to be on the ground in the effort to help tourism recover in the post-Covid world in this important market for Israel. Having immigrated to Israel as a child, Orenbach has always been passionate about sharing the wonders of her country with the world at large — particularly through tourism.

Israel: Land of Creation


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

After finishing my BA in Management and Communication, all my closest friends started to work in marketing departments at various organizations. I felt that I needed to work with people in a more “down to earth” environment, so I joined a human resources company as a recruiter. I liked the work and atmosphere but kept feeling that it was not actually the path for me. I then set out to land a job in marketing, but it was very important to me that it have some sort of added value to society. It was during this time my husband told me he had seen an online ad from The Israel Ministry of Tourism; they were opening a cadets’ course that would train individuals to work in the marketing administration which promotes tourism to Israel from around the world. I applied and fortunately I got in! I had never considered the public sector before- but this opportunity felt too good to be true! I’d be working in marketing like I wanted, but my focus would be on selling the wonderful product of Israel. I always believed being a tourist in Israel to be a unique experience, and I find helping to bring the wonder of my country to the outside world to be beyond meaningful. Now, 5 years after I started at the Ministry, I find that all my hard work has led me to the role of Consul-Director of our West Coast office in Los Angeles.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

I started my position in September, and I have 3 wonderful people on my team. They have all been working from home since the pandemic started seeing as the office is in Los Angeles. One day, I was having a Zoom call with Megan, our PR Director, as we do every week when a thought struck me. We have gotten to know each other fairly well since I arrived, but suddenly I realized that I have never met her in person which is slightly ridiculous since I feel like we have known each other for so long! These are certainly strange times we are living in when one doesn’t even know the height of one’s co-workers…

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are mainly focused on opening Israel back up to inbound tourism to non-citizens. Israel is moving forward rapidly with vaccinating its population; so far, over 2 million people have received the vaccine, which is remarkably over 20% of the population (as of January 2021). With this impressive achievement, we are now able to move onto the next phase of the work we have been doing with the Ministry of Health since the start of the pandemic. Through the cooperation of our two Ministries, we are finalizing a plan that will allow tourism to reopen in a safe and efficient manner that lets people enjoy the wonderful things Israel has to offer once more. The individuals who work in travel in Israel are absolutely incredible, and we are all eager to see them return to doing what they do best as quickly as can be managed given all the difficulties and complexities of the current environment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Wow — I’m sorry to be so cheesy, but the answer is my husband. Since starting at the Ministry, I knew at some point I wanted to get positioned at a foreign office in order to be on the ground working to bring more tourists to beautiful Israel. When this opportunity to come to LA arose, he told me without hesitation that I should apply! Even though he had a full-time job in Israel, he left it so we could come out here to fulfill my dream. Even when the pandemic started, and a lot of things were unclear, he was 100 percent invested in the process and I could not have done this without him. We are completely 50/50 in parenting and I feel that it gives both of us the room to develop both professionally and personally.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

My greatest challenges so far have been very tangible. When the pandemic started, I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, and I ended up delivering him in Israel only a couple of days after the first lockdown ended there. That circumstance would have made for a bizarre maternity leave on its own, but mine was made even stranger due to the fact we were trying to manage having a newborn in this Covid-19 landscape while preparing to move to Los Angeles for my new position. With everything going on, there was practically complete uncertainty with everything regarding our lives — it was crazy! Then there was the actual journey to move our entire lives half a world away in what was a blend between a work challenge and a family one. To put it mildly, it was no easy feat to move to a different country with small kids who are too young to comprehend the concept of jetlag. I would not recommend it…

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

If I take a ”glass half full” approach to everything we’ve endured as a family throughout Covid-19, I’d have to say that the pandemic helped me with finding balance between work and family. Since we’ve all been together at home here in L.A. since we arrived, I had the time to deal with everything at once both professionally and for our home. I think that if these were normal times, I would already be going to conventions and meetings in different cities around the country, which would eat up a lot of my time. The current situation, although not ideal in many ways, gave me a good opportunity to start this new life focusing on the balance between working and being with my family. I had room to wiggle everything together.

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

To be direct, travel has been almost nonexistent since the beginning of the pandemic, which means, by extent, my “business” has been nonexistent. For me it has been and still is very challenging to continue working to promote tourism to Israel when the borders have been closed to visitors for almost a year and we have no concrete date for when this will change.

Another challenge is having to manage a team remotely when we never had a chance to work together regularly in an office. Seeing as I am a new manager for my team with the added bonus of being the most culturally “foreign” as most of the team is American or Israelis who have lived in the U.S. for many years, it’s been more difficult than it would normally be to develop personal relationships with my employees. Although many people dislike small talk, I find it to be really integral to deepening relationships. The absence of it has been markedly strange over the past few months for me.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Currently, since unfortunately travel has not resumed yet, I spend most of my time talking to the local travel industry, tour operators, and agents just to stay in touch for “the day after”. I also update them on what the current situation in Israel is and inquire as to how we can best support their activities and stay top of mind for the time when tourism resumes.

Regarding managing a team remotely, I try to create a bond within the team through lots of little things, for instance, making sure to have a call with everyone at least twice a week. Also, if there is a project that everyone can contribute to, even if it would normally be only one teammate’s responsibility, I try to include everyone in it as long as it is still relevant to their position. Finally, I try to ask my team to share personal stories as well as work plans. I find that after weekends and holidays there is always something fun to share, even if it’s just how weird a 3-person Thanksgiving was.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

My kids are still little enough to be in daycare rather than formal school, so my husband and I have not had to take on the responsibilities of homeschooling. It certainly sounds monumentally challenging from everything I’ve heard. However, I am working from home and managing the duties I perceive to be my responsibility as a parent of very young children, and I have no problems admitting it took me a while to find some balance between these roles.

In order to juggle these parts of my life, I strive to have a clear-cut daily schedule — I know I’m working until 5pm, and I don’t want to go back to the laptop when we come home with the kids from school. My advice, even if you don’t have a 9–5 job, is that when you are not working, shift your attention to the relevant activity (be it family time or any other personal matters). I know it really depends on the organization you are working for, but it’s always best to check if you can have more flexible working hours and absolutely worth it to explain that allowing more flexibility in your schedule will help to improve your work.

Also, try not to be too hard on yourself. Remember there is always a tradeoff, and that’s ok! I don’t believe that the balance can be perfect and surely not so 100% of the time. WLB (“Work-Life Balance”) has become a very widespread term people use and I think just the constant thought of it is stressful on its own. Sometimes it’s ok if you need to do something in the evening or you need to work later because it’s urgent. If I’m with the kids and worrying about work that’s not good for anyone. It’s imperative to either make yourself not worry (which for me is impossible) or you do what you need to in order to get it off your mind for that moment- even if it means you give your full attention to work during time that you originally planned for family. The thing is that in these digital times I have everything on my phone, so the balance is trickier. Sometimes I find myself sitting with the baby on his mat and trying to answer an email at the same time. It is a process not a test or code to judge yourself by.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

Given everything that is going on in the world, to stay sane I try to consume news in what I term as “a moderate way.” There is just so much information that flows around us constantly, I personally find that interacting with it too much can have a very negative effect on me sometimes. This is why I am careful with how much time I spend reading the news. I know some people feel the opposite way, though, where always being in the know has a comforting effect on them. It’s important to evaluate your own emotional response to the news as a medium for consumption and adjust your relationship to it to safeguard your own mental health to the greatest extent possible.

With my children, they are both so little, it’s all about the joy and burden associated with trying to keep them entertained. I do my best to fully enjoy the time I get with my kids and play with them as much as I can, since they’ll only be this age once. On the other hand, if I feel myself not being fully present or worse, being drained by the interaction, I honestly try to see if there’s an opportunity for them to play calmly together as a pair or for my husband to be with them on his own for 20–30 minutes. This chance to have some quiet time alone is incredibly restorative in terms of my energy levels, and, of course, I make sure to create chances for my husband to have that time for himself as well. Parents need to be honest about their own needs and create opportunities to take time for themselves. Constantly giving more than you have will only lead to resentment.

On a more general note, without the normal activities of daily life, it helps to create a schedule of some sort. It helps bring normality back into our lives, even if my kids are too little to understand- it at least helps keep my husband and myself focused.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons to Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Vaccines — Science made an unbelievably big push forward in the creation of this vaccine. Hopefully we can use the knowledge we gained from this rapid progress in the fight against other life-threatening illnesses, either from a purely scientific standpoint or in the logistical management of international medical research.
  2. Community — The whole world is facing this crisis together and you can see a lot of acts of kindness and solidarity. We all have more in common with one another than maybe we once thought we did.
  3. Technology — Even though we are stuck at home, we can still see everyone we love through our screens. Although there are many things to bemoan, at least we are experiencing these times at a point when technology allows us to still be together. Speaking for myself, it has made things a little easier until we can hug our loved ones again.
  4. Perspective — Given everything we’ve endured, I think people will be much more grateful for everything they have- particularly the things they will regain after this hard period of time, like the ability to travel freely!
  5. Time — We will beat this virus- it will be over one day. I don’t know when exactly, but we are on our way out of this.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

This is an undeniable lonely time. People don’t get to hug and kiss one another, and many are spending a lot of time at home alone. It’s important to stay connected to the people that are close to us. Social distance is not only a physical state- these days it’s also a mental one. Try and schedule video calls every couple of days with people who matter to you. Many individuals worry about everything they are missing out on thanks to this crisis, so take the time to let them know that everyone is in this together and we will dive wholeheartedly into the normal activities of life when this is over. If you can and it is safe to do so, try and meet outside in a park or some other type of nature. Even just the simple act of breathing some fresh air makes a world of difference in our metal attitudes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Marshall McLuhan was one of the first professors and philosophers we studied in my communications courses. In my opinion, a standout quote from him is, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” The original intent of this message was to focus on how technology is oriented and how it changes our behavior as a result. I love it and I think that it’s very relevant for humanity, particularly in the past few decades. It is amazing that we live in times where we can see change happening right in front of us and its immediate effect on the world and society. Regardless of it is for better or worse, the key is to have an awareness of these processes that are constantly evolving and adapting.

Of course, technology’s ubiquitous impact our lives makes it very relevant to the world of travel! Travel and the way we experience it is just one of the many things that has changed drastically as a result of technological progress and the many tools we shaped for it. It is always interesting and challenging to see how we can further adapt to make travel better in the everchanging technological sphere.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dina-orenbach-47190142/. Check out our website at www.israel.travel, or follow us on social media (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube).

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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