Hoffman in Israel
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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.
‘This Time it Feels a Bit Different'
By Ed Wittenberg
The mood among Jews in Jerusalem swings from “deeply sad” to “really angry” as a wave of terrorist attacks that show no signs of stopping continues in Israel.
That was the view Stephen H. Hoffman, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, expressed in an Oct. 19 telephone interview from Jerusalem.
“I think that expresses the feelings of most people here, along with the belief that you’ve got to be more cautious in your daily activity,” he said. “Parents are re-evaluating when to let their kids go someplace, and where they go alone.”
Hoffman arrived in Jerusalem Oct. 14. He said the trip was planned in advance with leadership from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, which he said travels to Israel several times a year to meet with staff from the Mandel Leadership Institute and look at its programs there.
In a message emailed Oct. 16 from Jerusalem to the Federation’s database, Hoffman said he has been to Israel many times during terrorist attacks, but this time feels “a bit different because the terror is coming from seemingly random attackers, unorganized, but deadly just the same.”
In the interview, Hoffman said he has not been to any of the sites where the attacks have taken place and that he doesn’t fear for his safety.
“There is definitely heightened security,” he said. “You see more soldiers on the streets, more police and border guards. I know roadblocks are set up, at checkpoints, to challenge people before they enter Jerusalem by car or on foot.
“I talked to an Arab staff member at a restaurant recently, and a 10-minute commute to the Jerusalem area has turned into an hour for Arab staff because of the checkpoints.”
Hoffman said people there are beginning to identify terror with all Arab workers, and that’s a problem.
“There are a lot of people who make their living here in the Jewish section of Jerusalem – not just Jews but also Arab workers – and it forces Jews to really deal with their basic human values,” he said. “You don’t want to blame everybody for the acts of a few, especially those who are just trying to make a living.”
Even though he hasn’t seen any change in the pattern of violence since he’s been in Jerusalem, Hoffman said he still sees many tourists there.
“I did get some feedback from people who read my (Oct. 16) message, and I was surprised by how many were in Israel, telling me how they felt about being here and how they were going about their tours and everything else,” he said.
“Now is the time to stand strong with our people in Israel. They always appreciate those of us here visiting, and they know how we feel about all this at home. We also can attack news reports by our own social media comments.”