Eight American mayors visit Jerusalem's city hall on a tour of Israel .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Eight US mayors have wrapped up a weeklong tour of Israel as guests of the AJC (American Jewish Committee) Project Interchange. They met with several of their Israeli counterparts as well as with Palestinian and Israeli Arab leaders in the private and public sectors.
“It’s been inspiring,” John Giles, the mayor of Mesa, Arizona, and seminar chairman of the trip, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday as their trip came to an end. “If they can do it here, we can do it there. Our challenges are smaller, similar but smaller, so it’s inspiring to see a nation dealing in such a positive way with the challenges.”
The tour included visits to Sderot, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Syrian border and Ziv Medical Center in Safed, which is treating Syrians wounded in their civil war.
“With all the gridlock in Washington, mayors are some of America’s top leaders,” AJC assistant executive director Daniel Elbaum said. “It was very important to get a bipartisan group, and this is something we looked to get – both members of the Democrat and Republican parties and mayors of diverse areas of the nation. We really wanted mayors who are incredibly respected in their positions but also could possibly run for other offices in the future.”
Mayor Stephanie Miner of Syracuse, New York, said she gained not only a meaningful personal experience but relevant infrastructure information that she hopefully can implement in her city.
“The issues that I learned about emergency response I will bring back to my city,” she said.
“And although we don’t deal with terrorism, I think about it in terms of failed infrastructure issues.”
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who has been to Israel before, believes this trip helped strengthen the bond shared by the United States and Israel.
“It’s good to make friends and it’s good to know people because you never know when you’re going to have to pick up the phone and just ask how to deal with an issue they have dealt with before,” he said.
“Israel’s issues are very unique to American mayors, and we would like to extend a hand to our friends here and let them know that we are friends and we can lend a hand and help.”