March 27, 2014

Former Israeli Prime Minister Will Address Students in April

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Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister of Israel, will address students on April 8 about how Israel “maintains a thriving democracy amongst its Middle East neighbors and improve[s] the world with new technologies,” according to Rachel Medin ’14, co-president of the Cornell Israel Political Affairs Committee.

According to Hal Ossman, executive director of Cornell Hillel, Olmert’s appearance is co-sponsored by Caravan for Democracy, an initiative of Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International that brings different speakers from Israel to discuss “the issues affecting Israel, how it is covered in the media and its unique role as the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Olmert served in the Israeli military and the Knesset, which is the legislative branch of Israel’s government, before becoming prime minister from 2006 to 2009, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. He was also the mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and served as Israel’s Minister of Finance in 2007, the website said.

Alana Askari ’17 said she is looking forward to Olmert’s visit so she can learn more about the political situation in Israel.

“I think it is amazing that the Hillel has such a large presence on this campus to bring in such an important figure in the Jewish Community,” Askari said. “It will be a great opportunity for students to hear him speak and to understand what is going on over there.”

Marlee Birnberg ’17 added that her recent trip to Israel increased her concern in Israeli affairs.

“I visited Israel for the first time in January and I came back with questions about Israel’s political and military situation,” Birnberg said. “I’m hoping [Olmert] will be able to answer my questions and further my interest in Israeli affairs.”

Ossman said the event will “allow students to hear unique, first-hand perspective of a crucial part of the world today.”

“Any time that Cornell students have the opportunity to hear from a current or former head of state, it expands their horizons and informs them of what is happening in the world,” Ossman said.

Mara Suskauer, executive director of Israel Advocacy and Education for the Jewish National Fund, said in a press release that the Fund is “proud” to be bringing Olmert to speak.

“Our goal is to reach a diverse population at each of these campuses and for thousands of students to hear a message of how Israel is helping to make the world a better place through the unique viewpoint of a prime minister,” she said.

Olmert’s visit will be hosted by the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Cornell Hillel, and is part of a four-campus tour sponsored by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.