As the chief political correspondent and analyst for The Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman has a profound understanding of the nuances that make Israeli politics complex and, at times, confusing. On Friday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Nov. 14, Hoffman will share his insights as scholar-in-residence at Congregation Anshei Israel.
Having lived in Israel for the past 17 years, Hoffman, who grew up in Chicago, has observed a change in the overall feelings Israeli citizens have toward the political process, very different from what has occurred in the United States. “Israeli politics and American politics have gone, over the last 20 years, in opposite directions,” says Hoffman. “Twenty years ago, when I lived in America, I don’t think most people knew whether they lived in a blue state or a red state. Now, everyone knows what color state they live in, and a lot of people hate the people from the other colored states.” Hoffman witnessed similar attitudes in Israel a few decades ago, but says things have changed. “I think people have gotten more relaxed. They realize that one politician or another isn’t going to make a huge difference.”
Hoffman credits the change in Israeli attitudes to the fluid political climate. “The people of Israel have a lot more power, politically, than the people of the United States. We have elections more often, and at any given point, our government could fall apart, so our politicians have to be on their toes,” he explains. “Even though there is no concept of constituency in our political system, if our politicians don’t serve the people well, they are gone quickly.”
Called “the most optimistic man in Israel” by Israel Television, Hoffman cites his children as his source of hope. “I have beautiful children, who constantly inspire me. They help me see Israel through fresh eyes.” Adding that his children are the great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, Hoffman sees the difference between generations as proof that life in Israel will improve. “I know that we’ve overcome so much from those days to the days of my children, and that gives me hope. Even though we have a ways to go, we are going to get there. Things are going to get better and better.”
Prior to living in Israel, Hoffman wrote for the Arizona Republic. Although he says he hasn’t been to Tucson since “Fifth Street Deli was still called Feig’s,” he has fond feelings for Arizona. “I’m happy to be going back to Arizona. It was such a warm place for me, in more ways than one. I really loved the people. If Israel didn’t exist, then Arizona would be at the top of the list of places to live.”
His visit to Anshei Israel on Nov. 13 will include Shabbat dinner, followed at 7:45 p.m. by his presentation “Behind the Scenes in Israeli Politics and the Battle over the Future of the Jewish-Democratic State.”
On Sat., Nov. 14, as part of the 9 a.m. Shabbat Service, Hoffman will present the D’var Torah, “Peace Politics and Plutonium: An Insider’s Look at the Mayhem in the Middle East”; at 3:30 p.m., he will present “Red States, Blue States and the Jewish State: The View from Jerusalem on Obama’s Relationship with Israel”; followed at 4:30 p.m. by Mincha, Seudah Shlesheet (Third Meal), Ma’ariv and Havdallah.
Reservations for the Shabbat dinner must be made by Nov. 9. Fee for members: adults $14, children $8; guests: adults $20, children $12. Call 745-5550.
Laura Wilson Etter is a freelance journalist, grant writer and artist in Tucson.