Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plants a tree in Israel.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
KKL-JNF honored outgoing Chairwoman of the US Congressional House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with a special tree planting ceremony on October 21 to commemorate Cuban patriot, poet, and freedom fighter José Martí.
“I am so moved to be here,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as she arrived at the Eshtaol Forest just outside of Jerusalem, together with her husband Dexter Lehtinen and members of her legislative delegation. “Castro knew how important José Martí was to Cubans and had falsely made him into a [communist] revolutionary hero. José Martí advocated for freedom and independence.”
A hero from the Cuban independence war from Spain, Martí died in battle with the Spanish on May 19, 1895.
Ros-Lehtinen was greeted by KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson. In his welcome speech, he noted that that in Jewish tradition, the planting of a tree is seen as a sign of hope for the next generation and has become a part of life-cycle events.
Ros-Lehtinen was born in Havana, Cuba and fled with her family to the U.S. in the wake of the communist revolution there led by Fidel Castro. Her father had been a leader in the anti-Castro Christian Democratic Movement.
In 1989 she was elected to congress to represent her Miami-area 27th congressional district as the first Cuban American and Latina elected to Congress. She was also the first woman to chair the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. She is currently, until her retirement, the most senior U.S. Representative from Florida.
Ros-Lehtinen noted that the importance of the ceremony taking place on the Hebrew date of the assassination of Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
“For us who love freedom’ we know you have to suffer for it,” she said. “We know how Israel so wants peace but understand you have to fight for peace to keep peace. Here in Israel, born from the ashes of the Holocaust where millions of people died, you have established a state and we know you have to fight every day to survive. We in the US Congress understand your struggle every day for your existence, the fight for your survival. We will always be by your side. The US will continue to stand with Israel because you stand for our values of freedom and democracy. ”
Read more about the planting ceremony with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen