THE ISRAELI MAYORS’ CONFERENCE IN JERUSALEM IS A TRULY WONDERFUL EVENT
As Vice Chairman of the American Jewish Congress, it has been an honor and privilege to be at the 32nd annual Mayor’s Conference in Jerusalem.
Seeing all of these Mayors from all over the world gathered together looking for ways to help each other prosper is heart-warming and incredibly encouraging for the future of our world.
What I find especially amazing is the high level of cooperation between Mayors from places as diverse as Bal Harbour Florida, Peru, Uganda, Ethiopia, Poland, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, and Taiwan, all of whom clearly understand the tremendous benefits to having a strong relationship with Israel.
I also have to commend the Chairman of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen (see below for Jack’s remarkable opening ceremony speech), for being an extraordinary leader at this conference. It is truly a testament to Jack’s management skills and understanding of the importance of everybody at the conference working together on a common goal that everything has gone so smoothly thus far.
The Mayors from these nations in past years have frequently gone on to serve in higher offices, in large part due to the benefits their visits to Israel brought their respective countries.
That’s because the conference not only provides these Mayors with a deeper understanding of Israel as a nation and the need to educate about the dangers of anti-Semitism, but also educates them about a wide variety of innovations in technology, infrastructure, counter-terrorism, and the economy that prove to be universally beneficial.
There are incredible investment opportunities in Israel, but also outstanding companies within the country that are looking to invest elsewhere. The chance to court Israeli investment into cities and countries worldwide is one that numerous Mayors take advantage of every year to help boost their local economies.
The potential windfall from Israeli investment, which creates jobs, improved infrastructure, and introduces new state of the art technology into the fold means that any Mayor who does not attend and explore these opportunities is missing out on the possibility of greatly improving the lives of his citizenry.
And personally, I have met so many impressive Mayors in just my first day here that I am honestly blown away. These are some of the finest public servants in the entire world gathered together in one place, and their collaboration can lead to so many improvements worldwide that it is hard not to get excited.
I am overjoyed to be here, and greatly look forward to meeting more terrific people and exploring even more innovative ideas throughout the rest of the week.
JACK ROSEN — CHAIRMAN of THE AMERICAN JEWISH CONGRESS
OPENING CEREMONY SPEECH
MAYORS IN ATTENDANCE — MAYORS
Khatib Abdulrahman, Mayor of Zanzibar, Tanzania
Motanga Andrew Monjimba, Mayor of Limbe, Cameroon
Nayib Bukeleis, Mayor of San Salvador, El Salvador
Thamiso Edison Chabalala, Deputy Council Chairman, Southern District Council, Botswana
Jacek Jaśkowiak, Mayor of Poznan, Poland
Beti Kamya Turwomwe, Minister for Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan Affairs, Uganda
Deriba Kuma Heiy, Mayor of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Adriana Krnáčová, Mayor of Prague, Czech Republic
Dr. Chia-Lung Lin, Mayor of Taichung, Taiwan
BY GATHERING MAYORS TOGETHER HERE IN THE ANCIENT CITY OF JERUSALEM, WE HOPE TO UNDERSCORE THE FACT THAT ALL PEOPLE, EVERYWHERE, SHARE MANY OF THE SAME CHALLENGES AND NEEDS AS THEY SEEK TO LIVE AND WORK TOGETHER IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COMMUNITIES. AND OF COURSE, WE WANT TO INTRODUCE TO ALL OF YOU THE GREAT BEAUTY AND MYSTERY OF THIS VERY SPECIAL MUNICIPALITY. WE HOPE YOU WILL SEE THE IMPORTANCE AND RELEVANCE OF JERUSALEM AS A LIVING, BREATHING, MODERN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY CITY AND ISRAEL AS A NATION THAT PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY & FREEDOM FOR ALL OF ITS CITIZENS, JEWS, MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS LIVING TOGETHER IN HARMONY AND YEARNING FOR PEACE FOR ITS CITIZENS.
EVERY MAYOR WHO TRAVELS A GREAT DISTANCE TO ATTEND THE CONFERENCE UNDERSTANDS THE POTENTIAL THAT EXISTS TO BUILD A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR COUNTRY AND ISRAEL.
ISRAEL IS A SPECIAL COUNTRY.
AS ISRAEL PREPARES TO MARK 70 YEARS SINCE ITS CREATION, THIS SMALL COUNTRY, 58% OF WHICH IS ALRGELY BARREN DESERT, HAS DESPITE ALL ODDS BECOME A WORLD LEADER IN THE FIELDS OF ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY, A VERITABLE BREEDING GROUND FOR INNOVATIVE START-UPS. DESPITE BEING IN ITS INFANCY AS A NATION, TODAY ISRAEL HAS ONLY FIVE PER CENT UNEMPLOYMENT AND IS THE THIRD COUNTRY LISTED ON THE NASDAQ AFTER THE US AND CANADA. ITS ECONOMY HAS ROCKETED FROM APPROXIMATELY $3 BILLION IN 1948 TO VOER $300 BILLION TODAY. FROM HAVING MINIMAL TECHNOLOGICAL CAPABILITIES IN 1947, TODAY IT IS A TOP-FIVE HIGH-TECH AND CYBER POWER.
ISRAEL WAS FOUNDED IN 1948 OUT OF THE ASHES OF THE HOLOCAUST AND ITS DEATH TOLL OF SIX MILLION JEWS. THE FACT THAT IT WAS FOUNDED AS THE JEWISH STATE, TO PROVIDE A HOME FOR A JEWISH DEMOGRAPHIC, AN ESTIMATED 80% OF WHICH WAS WIPED OUT IN THE HOLOCAUST, LEFT AN INDELIBLE MARK ON THE NATION’S IDENTITY. AS CHAIM WEIZMANN WROTE TO DAVID BEN-GURION DURING WORLD WAR II: “HERETOFORE WE WERE A PEOPLE IN SEARCH OF A NATION: WHEN THIS IS OVER WE WILL BE A NATION IN SEARCH OF A PEOPLE.”
I WONDER IF YOU AGREE WITH ME THAT FOR A COUNTRY THAT THE WORLD SEEMS TO BE OBSESSED WITH, FIRST TIME VISITORS QUICKLY REALIZE MOST OF THEIR PRECONCEPTIONS ARE WRONG, AS YOU WILL NO DOUBT SOON REALIZE.
REACTION TO THE JERUSALEM DESIGNATION HAS MOVED FROM REGIONAL CRITICISM TO INTERNATIONAL OUTRAGE OVER THE PAST TWO MONTHS, WITH LEADERS FROM MOST WESTERN POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS INCLUDING THE UN RUSHING TO CONDEMN THE DECISION. GIVEN THE ONGOING ATROCITIES IN COUNTRIES LIKE SYRIA AND MYANMAR, YOU HAVE TO WONDER WHY ISRAEL ALONE IS SINGLED OUT FOR SUCH WIDESPREAD CONDEMNATION IN RESPONSE TO A DOMESTIC DECISION BY THE US GOVERNMENT. WE CAN ONLY CONCLUDE THAT ONCE AGAIN WHERE ISRAEL IS INVOLVED, MISINFORMATION AND MISREPRESENTATION PERSIST, AS THE SAME STANDARDS OF STATEHOOD ARE NOT APPLIED TO WESTERN COUNTRIES, MUCH LESS MORE UNSAVORY REGIMES AROUND THE WORLD.
YET DESPITE THIS CONTINUED DOUBLE STANDARDS AND EXISTENTIAL THREATS TO THEIR NATION’S EXISTENCE, THE ISRAELI IDENTITY IS RESILIENT AND ROBUST, AND ISRAELIS SOMEHOW MANAGE TO CONTINUE TO BUILD THEIR THRIVING COUNTRY AND ECONOMY. THIS IS A COUNTRY CONSTRUCTED ON THE NEED TO ACCOMPLISH THINGS KNOWING THAT LIFE IS UNCERTAIN, THAT WE ALL HAVE LIMITED TIME ON EARTH, THAT WE NEED TO DEMAND THE MOST FROM OURSELVES BECAUSE NOTHING COMES EASILY. THAT NATIONAL ETHOS THINKING IS THAT ISRAELIS MUST SUMMON THE RESOLVE TO ENSURE THAT THE FUTURE IS IN THEIR OWN HANDS.