U.S. Mayors Day 1 Blog Post

September 12th, 2017

“If you see something, say something. And do something.” Those words, uttered today by Col. Yechiel Soffer, the former head of Israel’s Defense Forces Home Front Command, are an appropriate shorthand summary of the first day of the AJC Project Interchange’s U.S. mayors’ seminar in Israel.

The mayors have certainly seen, said and done (and heard and eaten) a great deal during this first day in Tel Aviv. From an intensive morning of briefings about Israeli politics, society and overall strategic environment, the mayors hit the bustling city of Tel Aviv to learn about this hub of diversity, culture and innovation. At a lunch with Chen Ariely, Director of Israel’s leading LGBT organization, the mayors learned about the city’s efforts to promote a diverse culture and assure that all of its citizens feel welcome. There was also a frank discussion about the work that remains to be done with a particular focus on the challenges with both the ultra-orthodox and Muslim communities.

Israel is the start-up nation and the mayors are certainly interested in how to capture some of that innovation for their cities. From creating swifter first responders to how to build a better garbage truck, the afternoon consisted of a series of meetings aimed to give the mayors a variety of opportunities to both improve their own cities and partner with Israel. There were several discussions about how Israel fosters an environment of innovation and how the partnership between government and private interests can improve the lives of a city’s residents.

The evening ended with a dinner with legendary Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, currently serving in his 19th year in office. Mayor Huldai spoke of the city’s challenges, and also about its many accomplishments. Mayor Huldai spoke about education, housing costs, crime and other issues that every single mayor could understand.

Tomorrow we are off to Sderot, the West Bank, and lunch meeting with a dozen Israeli mayors. Already the mayors are understanding why some call Tel Aviv the city that never sleeps.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.