“There is no greater relation to Israel than its relationship with the United States,” says Yinam Cohen, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest. “The Midwest forms such an important part of the United states, so I feel a great responsibility for having received this opportunity to get acquainted with this part of the world and its Jewish communities.”
As the new Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Cohen is eager to begin his work strengthening ties between Israel and the United States. He will oversee nine Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin) and will be based out of Chicago. With 15 years of experience in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is the first opportunity for Cohen to head a diplomatic mission.
The Path to Consul General
Cohen has held a number of diplomatic positions. He served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of Israel in Madrid, Spain from 2015-2018. Prior to this he held a Deputy Chief of Mission position in Bogota, Colombia (2007-2010) and was a Spokesperson in Berlin, Germany from 2010-2012. From 2012-2015, he was a diplomatic advisor to three consecutive director generals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Before arriving in Chicago, Cohen held the position of Senior Policy Advisor to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Director of the Policy Department in the Minister’s Bureau (2020-2021). He was also the Director of the UN Political Affairs Department (2018-2020).
Each country Cohen served in required a different nature of work. In one position he focused on how Israel can help the people in Colombia. In others, he focused on strengthening European-Israeli political relations. Now, in The United States, Cohen says he is ready to take on all this new position has to offer.
“It’s a whole new arena,” Cohen explains. “Everything in the United States is on a much larger scale. As the strongest ally to Israel, there is more than just a political bond between the two nations. There is a bond between people, history, shared values and strong emotional connections to both the land of Israel and The United States.”
Having only visited the Midwest once, Cohen knew there was great political and economic opportunities here. In his early twenties, while in the States for a friend’s wedding, Cohen and his friend took a road trip after and spent a quick 24 hours in Chicago.
“It was summertime, the beaches and parks were packed with people,” he says. “It was so amazing. Since then I have had this image of Chicago as being one of the most beautiful and amazing cities I have ever visited. And I have visited a lot of cities around the world.”
When the opportunity presented itself, Cohen knew it was time for him to work on the greatest bond Israel has. And so, he applied to be the Consul General, was chosen, and now gets to call Chicago his home.
“Chicago is the place,” he says. “And I am excited to start this mission here.”
Economic Opportunities for Israel and the Midwest
Israel is home to many companies that develop cutting edge technologies used around the world. Being a desert, it’s no surprise startup companies in Israel have found new and innovative ways to better use and conserve water when it comes to agriculture. This same technology can be used right here in Iowa.
“In Israel, we do not have a lot of water, half the country is a desert,” Cohen says. “Because of that, we had to create high tech super powers in agricultural. For example, the use of drones to monitor crops.” This technology uses drones to take pictures from above to identify whether a crop needs more irrigation systems, or a reduction in water usage.
Cohen touched on a second sector he believes will be an important economic opportunity for both Israel and the Midwest—smart automobile technologies. Cars are not produced in Israel, but it is one of the largest hubs for smart mobility technologies. With two major car production hubs calling the Midwest home, this partnership is a perfect match.
“There are so many Israeli companies who are eager to open to international markets,” Cohen says. “Israel has the technology, but not the capacity to test them. The Midwest does, and this could be a great opportunity for Israeli and Midwesterners to work together.”
Diversity and the Jewish People
“We are all one big family. We can disagree, but we still remain a family.” This was said by Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid, during his inauguration speech. Cohen, who was a senior advisor at the time, was present for this speech and believes the above quote to be a strong message to the Jewish people, and one he holds at the front of his mission.
The Consul General’s job is to connect Jews in the Midwest to Israel. Of course, that comes with its challenges. One of those challenges is connecting Jews who may have issues with Israeli governmental policy and therefore are less supportive.
“I am aware that within the Jewish community, especially among the younger generation, there are dilemmas and concerns on certain aspects of Israel,” Cohen says. “This is totally legitimate and is a part of democracy, to be able to ask questions. My intentions are to reach out and listen—hear the opinions, concerns and questions the Jewish community has about Israel.”
And Cohen is not alone in this desire to address the concerns of the Jewish people. With a newly established Israeli government, Cohen confirms Lapid’s quote will be translated into policy.
“This government is very much committed to the bipartisan policy that is the basis to the very strong bond that we have had with the United States for decades,” Cohen says. During his first year in the position, Cohen plans to visit all nine states and meet with political representatives, business leaders and Jewish communities.
“I am excited to begin visiting these amazing Jewish communities to promote relations, interests and bonds between Israel and the Midwest,” Cohen says. “I am proud and humbled to have this opportunity and know the support of so many friends Israel has in the Midwest will help me in this great mission.”
We look forward to welcoming Cohen to Iowa in the future. To learn more about the Consulate of Israel to the Midwest, visit their website here.
By Giovanna Zavell