In the midst of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Jews across the Midwest will have the opportunity to hear from an expert on politics in Israel, who recently came back from a journalistic visit to the border of Ukraine and Moldova.
On Wednesday, April 6 at 8 a.m., Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post, will be the keynote speaker at Jewish National Fund-USA’s Midwest Breakfast for Israel, to be held virtually this year.
Originally, the keynote lecture Hoffman planned was titled “Peace, Politics and the Pandemic: An Insider’s Look into How Israel is Overcoming the World’s Challenges.” However, a shift in world focus from the pandemic to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine necessitated a switch in the direction of his discussion.
“The main message of the talk was to be about how Israel has stayed ahead of the curve in the pandemic and used creativity to defeat it. About how Israel united the most diverse government in history to overcome political challenges, and diplomatically became part of the Abraham Accords, thriving with the creativity and different approach used to bring it about,” Hoffman said.
However, Hoffman recently returned from a trip to the border of Ukraine and Moldova, and feels this crisis is a more pertinent topic to discuss.
“Time travel – you would think it’s not possible, but it is. You can go back to a much worse century, live it, and that is what’s happening right now,” Hoffman said. “I saw thousands of people escaping for their lives from one country to another, nothing but the shirt on their back and carrying a backpack, and suitcase, and that’s it, leaving behind their home and their career and their life.”
Hoffman plans to discuss Israel’s response to the crisis. Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has taken a somewhat-neutral stance in the conflict, according to media reports, being the first world leader to meet with Putin and immediately calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after.
“[Bennett] is trying his best to play somewhat of a neutral role, even though Israel obviously joined with the United Nations in condemning the Russians,” Hoffman said.
According to Hoffman, Israel has welcomed a disproportionate amount of Ukrainian refugees compared to the rest of the world, and though non-Jewish refugees need to pay a fee to be accepted into Israel, Hoffman says there have been calls by government ministers to change that.
A critical problem Israel faces is a housing and land shortage in the central part of the country, Hoffman said. These refugees will have to move into the southern region of Israel, and Hoffman views the work that JNF-USA does as crucial to helping Israel thrive and expand.
“I really respect and appreciate what JNF is doing to guarantee Israel’s future,” Hoffman said. “What’s going on here right now is that an overwhelming majority of Israelis live in the center of the country, and it’s not sustainable. We have a Negev at 60 percent of the land. JNF is building up the Negev to make it a place that even wealthy people would want to live in, and that’s what we need for our future.”
In addition to building up the land in less-populated regions, JNF-USA is working to support and provide resources for Jewish refugees from Ukraine, according to media reports.
During the talk, Hoffman plans to detail his personal experience at the border and how the Jewish community has been responding to the crisis.
In addition to hearing from Hoffman, attendees will learn about Jewish National Fund-USA’s work supporting the land and people of Israel.
“We became involved with JNF-USA after learning about all the great ways they support Israel, beyond just planting trees,” said Event Chairs Gail and Rabbi Steve Adams, in a statement. “We hope you will take advantage of this great opportunity.”