Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy are a Washington-based couple advocating on behalf of Israel, among any other projects.
The Croatian-born Srdoc and Samy, an American of Indian heritage, are co-founders of the US-based International Leaders Summit, an independent think tank dedicated to advancing economic reforms, expanding trade, presenting new security strategies, and strengthening the rule of law. Last year, the couple launched the first Jerusalem Leaders Summit, a public policy conference that brought together leading conservative thinkers and policy makers from around the world to the capital of Israel.
This year,they have done the same, holding the second annual Jerusalem Leaders Summit, in partnership with the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, The Heritage Foundation, National Religious Broadcasters and GreenPepper Digital India among other partners.
More than 120 leaders from Europe, India, the US and Israel convened at the Waldorf Astoria earlier this week. Featured speakers included Member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer of the United Kingdom, US congressman David Brat (R-VA) and retired American Navy SEAL and congressman-elect Scott Taylor (R-VA).
Becky Norton Dunlop, of the Heritage Foundation, a Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow and part of the Trump transition team, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also delivered keynote addresses.
This week’s Jerusalem summit focused on public policy issues addressing global security threats, economic freedom, technology and the rule of law, as well as the significance of Israel’s contributions of innovation and technology and the importance of strengthening the Jewish state’s security and sovereignty. Legislators, business leaders and representatives from different think tanks and the media took part in the discussions.
In an interview with In Jerusalem, Samy was excited about the summit and the opportunity to visit the city again. “It’s great to be back in Jerusalem,” he said. “Over the past 12 years, Natasha and I have been part of the International Leaders Summit, bringing young leaders from Europe and the United States to focus on issues involving democracy, free trade and rule of law.
“Last year, we felt that we needed to expand the summit to Israel, especially in the context of the challenges facing the Middle East. It was clear to us that the best city to hold such a gathering was Jerusalem,” he explained. “The best way to show support for Israel is right here in Israel.”
Srdoc explained that her appreciation of Israel stemmed from her childhood experiences growing up in Croatia, which was then part of Yugoslavia.
“We did not have economic freedom, nor the freedoms of the West, which you find in Israel,” she said. “While it wasn’t as bad in the former Yugoslavia as in the rest of the Eastern Bloc, it was still bad.”
Srdoc, who co-founded with her husband the Adriatic Institute for Public Policy, a free market research organization based in Croatia, was born in Rijeka, the port city on the western side of Croatia.
“My grandparents lived in five different countries without leaving their home – except during World War II, when they were taken away by Italian Fascists to a concentration camp. My father is a concentration camp survivor and my grandfather died fighting the Nazis. Our house was burned down by the German Nazi troops. My family was oppressed by different regimes and never even had the opportunity to enjoy property rights,” elaborated Srdoc, who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Rijeka, and her MBA at Bentley University in the US.
“If you look at Croatia, the country moved from Communism to war in the Balkans and now to a period of corruption. The Balkan route serves as the major route for drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Western Europe as well as for migrants. There is really no rule of law in the region.
“It is so important for me to come to Israel because this is the cradle of civilization in our world today,” she said. “We have so much to learn from this country.”
Her husband agrees. “How many countries in the Middle East function by the rule of law?” he asked. “It is critical that we stand by Israel – a country that is free and secure, and share the achievements of this country with policymakers from Europe, India and the United States.”
Samy, who first visited Israel in 1998, explained that his support for Israel stemmed from his Indian grandparents, who came from the south Indian state of Kerala to the US in the 1950s. “I grew up on stories of the warm friendship between the people of Kerala and the Jewish people, who have been warmly welcomed there since ancient times.”
He commented that the friendship between Kerala and the Jewish community dates back to the time of the First Temple, when King Solomon’s ships reaches Kerala. The Jewish community lived for centuries in harmony in Kerala.
He said that both he and Srdoc work with minority communities in the US to strengthen Israel’s image.
“Natasha speaks about Israel to the community of eastern European descent in the US and I do so with the Indian American community as well as leaders from India. It’s imperative that we engage with the minority communities of the United States regarding Israel.”
They believe that Israel and its prime minister should do more to engage with minority groups of America. The couple, who are Protestant, say that while the conservative evangelical Christian community has always been a bedrock of support for Israel, minority movements within the evangelical Christians are less engaged with Israel.
“Israel needs strong partners among Latino Americans, Indian Americans, Asian Americans and other minority groups in the United States,” said Samy.
“We see how the educational arena in the US has favored the Palestinian narrative and how young people are drawn to it. The other side is much louder and more engaged on university campuses as well as in reaching out to America’s ethnic communities. One important message of the Jerusalem Leaders Summit is to get Israeli leaders more involved with outreach to minority groups of the United States.
“It’s a different experience to visit Israel than just to watch news coverage of the country. There is nothing like seeing firsthand what is taking place here. We saw how the government leaders from New Zealand who took part in last year’s summit changed their opinions about the country. They visited Judea and Samaria for the first time and saw the reality on the ground.”
On a personal note, Srdoc shared that the couple’s 11-year-old son David likes visiting Jerusalem. “He loves city and his favorite area is the Old City and the Kotel.
“We enjoy visiting the archeological areas of Israel. There are beautiful places in this country but we somehow always get drawn back to Jerusalem,” said Srdoc.
“Jerusalem is a city close to our hearts.”