Roey Gilad, the consul general of Israel to the Midwest, visited the University March 9 to discuss how Israel faces the new challenges in the Middle East and to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the Midwest.

Gilad is in the consul general for 11 states in the Midwest and said the biggest relationships between Israel and the Midwest are rooted in technology and agriculture. Gilad said the University sends business students to Israel as well as having students work at “Area K,” an archaeological dig site in Israel for the University.

“It’s an excellent school from an academic view,” Gilad said. “And it’s an excellent school from the standpoint of engagement with Israel.”

Neil Schuster, the KU Hillel rabbi, introduced Gilad as the highest-ranking Israeli official in the Midwest. Schuster said Gilad’s visit is an indication that Israel views Kansas as an ally within the United States.

Schuster drew similarities to Massachusetts, where Israel has very strong economic ties. He said he sees this as a similar opportunity that can only get stronger over time.

“There’s a lot of natural opportunity for cooperation,” Schuster said. “There’s so much support and interest for Israel at the University of Kansas.”

Gilad invited Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to visit Israel to build relations. The governors of Indiana and Michigan have joined Gilad on trips to Israel, and he said the relationships between Israel and the two states were completely different than they were before.

Another Israeli advancement Gilad said he hopes to bring to Kansas and the rest of the United States is better cyber-security. Gilad said the infrastructure of the United States has been and will continue to be attacked and that Israel has the technology to help prevent that.

“Mainly with the state of Kansas, we are here for business,” Gilad said. “With the University, we would like to see more students going from Kansas to Israel. Seeing is believing.”

Gilad said he feels the University should be the foundation for relationships between the United States and Israel. He said he wants the programs to continue to grow like they have at Northwestern University. Gilad said schools in Israel have partnerships with Northwestern that have made their relations better and he hopes that can grow to more schools.

Gilad said Jews in the United States should be proud of their accomplishments and the Jewish people are the strongest minority in the world. The University has nearly a 10 percent Jewish population, and Gilad said Israel is very proud of that.

“Israel and America have strong ties,” senior Evan Rakoover from Austin, Texas, said. “Having an ally like that and [Gilad] trying to make the University of Kansas aware and help any way he can is very important.”

Gilad said he encourages the positive relationship between Jewish students and the University and said it is important that non-Jewish students learn the real face of Israel.

“In Israel we consider the American academic life to be very important,” Gilad said. “We work on nurturing our relationship with Universities.”

— Edited by Shane Jackson