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Valery Pekar: Syrian refugees who are prepared to work may find shelter in Ukraine.

The entrepreneur and public figure discusses the Ukrainian political nation, the emancipation of the Jews and why Christians like Shabbat.

Valery Pekar is a lecturer at the Kievo-Mohyla business school, an entrepreneur, co-founder of the “Nova Kraina” project, vice-president of the Ukrainian union of industrialists and entrepreneurs, the president of the “Evroindex” exhibition company. He has written over 200 articles on management, marketing and information technology. He lives in Kiev.

Is it easy to be an observing businessman and public figure in Ukraine? How do you explain your refusal to work on Saturdays to your business partners?

These two things are not connected at all. The question about whether it is easy to be a businessman in Ukraine is interesting in itself and is not connected with religion. Although believers always have it easier: they are helped by the understanding that crises and ordeals allow us to grow, and that no events are accidental.

As for the problem of business partners not understanding Shabbat, it simply does not exist. What’s more, it inspires some Christians to refuse to work on Sunday (as the Christian tradition in fact requires), as they ask themselves: how are we worse than Jews?

Undoubtedly, Saturday plays an important role in spiritual, intellectual and physical recovery – “recharging the batteries”. It is very important to stop from time to time and ask yourself the questions: who am I, where am I coming from and where am I going, and why?

What makes a person Jewish nowadays?

The same thing as always: a recognition of the commonality of historical fate and ancient ethical teaching, which has become a key to the reorganization of the world on the principles of charity and justice.

Some people believe that the Jews of Ukraine today feel more confident than they did several years ago, linking this with the appearance of the political nation. Is that so? At what stage is Ukrainian society today?

Undoubtedly that is the case. Ukrainian society today is in the process of modernization – economic, political, intellectual. A part of this process is the formation of a political nation, which unites citizens not on the principle of their ancestry, but on the principle of their faithfulness to the project of creating a new country – in other words, the anchor is moved from the past to the future. These processes were completed in Western Europe in the 19th century, but the trend has only reached us now.

The political nation brings with it the emancipation of the Jews, as was the case in Europe after Napoleon, and in America after independence. And here there are many positive things, but also a danger – the danger of assimilation. This is why believers find it easy to feel Jews, without ceasing to be members of the Ukrainian political nation.
Incidentally, these processes are gradually reaching the level of awareness: before the parliamentary elections advertising billboards stated “I’m proud to be Ukrainian. Vladimir Groisman” and also “I’m proud to be Ukrainian. Mustafa Dzhemilev”), and this was a clear signal.

By the way, I’m sure that most Jews of Ukraine supported Maidan and Ukrainian independence for good reason. And the Jewish victims, the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred, the feats of Jewish frontline soldiers, and the self-sacrifice of Jewish volunteers have a very positive influence on the feeling of Jews in Ukraine and the attitude towards them from other ethnic groups.

One of the measures of society’s willingness to live by European laws is tolerance. Evidently, Ukraine is not ready for LGBT marriages, or even to regulate partnership between LGBT people by law. Will we be ready one day?

As far as Ukraine as a whole is concerned, of course it is a rather traditional country, but at the same time, its lack of readiness to accept other orientations and forms of partnership is exaggerated in many ways. Usually only marginal members of society protest, and tolerance in itself is an important value of modern Ukrainians, otherwise such a diverse country simply won’t survive.

The problem of refugees is a topical one in Europe. Could this problem affect us, if for example the European borders start to be guarded better?

Refugees don’t flee because borders are badly guarded, but because there is a gigantic gap in living conditions between their homeland and prosperous Europe. Ukraine is a rather poor country, and our own socially vulnerable groups (pensioners, invalids, orphans) barely survive. If there isn’t a big handout on offer, there is no reason to come here.

But the problem has another side. The refugees who are prepared to work hard could probably find refuge in Ukraine – a country of unused possibilities and a high level of tolerance. People who aren’t prepared to persevere to survive and improve themselves can’t expect anything here, but those who are could well find themselves here.

Russia is already helping Assad, the ISIL continues to gain power, and Iran is blithely developing nuclear weapons… What scenario of the events in the Middle East do you see today?

Clearly, the Almighty is leading the world to a solution to the tangled problems we face. As a result of Putin’s escapades, Russian imperialism will cease to exist, and this alone will already make the world as a whole safer.
Israeli society, evidently, under the influence of new threats will become more right-wing (in the sense this word is given in Israeli politics). Traditional Arab monarchies will establish relations with Israel against the common enemy – chaos and terrorism. The problem of “Palestinian refugees” will finally cease to be relevant against the background of millions of refuges from various countries of the region.

Finally, the imperial hijinks of the “crazy gas station” will lead to a rejection of oil, which in general will significantly reduce the weight of the region in international politics and economy. And so on. The world will face great ordeals, but this is all for the best.


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