A father, businessman, lawyer, Akiva Hamilton is as devoted to his children as he is to defending Israel.
In the battle to present Israel’s case to the world, it’s good to have someone as articulate and passionate as Akiva Hamilton, a lawyer who works for Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center.
Back in his native Australia, before he made aliya in 2008, he was already active in pro-Israel advocacy, making important connections in the federal parliament in Canberra through the Australian Israel Jewish Affairs Council.
But it could easily not have happened at all. Akiva was born Andrew, a Catholic, and only converted to Judaism shortly before marrying his first wife, who was Jewish.
“I went to a posh private school in Sydney and until the age of 14 I was a practicing Catholic,” he says. “Through debating I met a lot of Jewish people, and later had many Jewish friends at university. I was an intellectual type and Jews tended to be the same.”
His long spiritual search led him to Orthodox Judaism, and within 10 months he had completed his conversion. His family were very understanding.
“My parents are happy for me that I’ve found something meaningful in my life and my mother has learned to cook kosher for when I visit,” he says.
He admits that it was hard at the beginning – not so much the keeping kosher, but the complete break from normal daily activity required for Shabbat.
“It was weird not to have TV or email or a phone,” he says. “But then you begin to appreciate the intellectual, spiritual and emotional space it creates in your life.
Today, without Shabbat, I think I’d go mad.”
He first came to Israel in 2008 and stayed for a year. He says the main reason for his divorce was that he wanted to stay here and his wife wanted to go back to Australia with their two children. Today he travels back and forth to see them and usually combines his visits with talking about his work for Shurat HaDin.