A United Jewish Association and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York mission of congressmen and community leaders arrived Tuesday morning to show solidarity with Israelis.
The mission contained an array of different New York City leaders, ranging from Pakistani Muslims to Caribbean Christians, among its 19 participants, including two New York congressmen, Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner.
The mission was originally planned six weeks ago and despite organizers' insistence on continuing as planned, Ron Soloway, one of the leaders of the mission and managing director of government and external relations for the UJAFederation of New York, said he "had not expected that we would not be in this kind of a situation."
Changes in the itinerary added visits to Haifa and Sderot. The group will also meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Justice Minister Haim Ramon and other officials. The group will fly home on Sunday.
"We clearly could have postponed, but we thought it was extremely important to show support," Soloway said.
The mission received a few cancellations after the violence broke out, but "85% of those who signed up are still attending," he said.
"I decided to come to show solidarity and that was only reinforced by the current situation," Nadler said.
He noted it was "always excited to visit Israel" and is looking forward to teaching other congressmen and other people about the country.
"The point of a mission is to educate people about Israel and the situation, and they always want a few people who can talk to other people who are more knowledgeable. It is not as much about me learning but other people," he said.
Nadler is not concerned about how his constituency will respond to his trip to Israel. "My constituency is mostly pro-Israel. Some people are very against Israel and I've gotten some nasty e-mails, but it's nowhere near a majority," he explained. "You do what you have to do and then you deal with that."
He views the current war as a simple issue in that Israel "pulled out of Gaza and Lebanon and then they are being attacked with unprovoked violence and I think people will understand."