bloomberg in jerusalem 2.
(photo credit: AP)
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday dedicated a US$6.5 million state-of-the-art emergency rescue service in Jerusalem in the memory of his father.
The new Jerusalem regional station of Magen David Adom will be named for William H. Bloomberg, who died in 1963 when his son, Michael, was still in college. The current station was built in the 1960s, renovated in the 1970s and is soon to be redesigned again.
Bloomberg, 64, the billionaire founder of the Bloomberg L.P. financial information company, donated money for the redesign, but would not disclose the exact amount. He was accompanied in his trip to Israel by his sister, Marjorie Tiven, his daughter, Emma, and his 98-year-old mother, Charlotte.
"I think that my father would have really had a smile on his face. He knew something about taking care of others," Bloomberg said at the ceremony dedicating the new center.
Bloomberg said his father was an air raid warden in Boston during World War II, and left a legacy of helping others. Bloomberg, who is Jewish, said his family supports some 600 causes worldwide.
Bloomberg, mentioned as a possible US presidential candidate, generally brushed aside political questions, reserving most of his words to praise of the Israeli emergency service, which treated some 2,600 people in northern Israel during last summer's war against Hizbullah.
"MDA provided critical support to the civilian victims of Hizbullah rocket attacks in towns and cities in the north and continues to serve towns in the south that are at risk of Kassam missiles," he said.
The national rescue service was admitted this year into the international Red Cross humanitarian movement, ending a wait of nearly 60 years.
Bloomberg did say, "America must help Israel deal with terror threats."
According to the mayor, "the US should support Israel in time of need. No one should force agreements on Israel."
Bloomberg was scheduled to meet later Thursday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Acting President Dalia Itzik. On Friday, he will tour the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which has been a frequent target of Palestinian rockets from Gaza.
He was then scheduled to depart for Jordan for private meetings with King Abdullah II and the American ambassador, the mayor's office said.
Bloomberg last went to Jerusalem in 2005, for the rededication of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. He also traveled to Israel in 2003, to honor his mother with the naming of a health center at Hadassah University Medical Center.
When asked if he hoped to return next time as president, Bloomberg smiled and said, "MDA has a president, so it doesn't need another."
Bloomberg noted that as the mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population in the world, and home to 200,000 Israeli citizens, he felt a strong connection to Israel.
"As Israel goes, so goes America and everyone else in the world who wants to practice our religion and be in charge of our own destiny," he said.