U.S. Mayors Day 2 Blog Post

September 13th, 2017

“You’ll rest when you get home.” It’s a phrase we often tell Project Interchange seminar participants given the intense schedule, jam-packed with meetings with experts. Day 2 was a perfect example - it was a very long day!

Our second full day in Israel began with a trip to the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which lies just a few kilometers from Gaza. In Sderot, we met the city’s renowned Security Coordinator Kobi Harush. Kobi described the ongoing threats of rocket fire and tunnel digging from Hamas as well as the ongoing psychological impact on the residents of Sderot. When a rocket alarm sounds, residents in Sderot have one minute to seek shelter. It’s hard not to imagine yourself and your family and the fear, disruption and trauma that ongoing violence can cause. Despite his growing concerns that the next round of violence might not be far off, life continues and the resilient Israeli people can and do carry on.

We then traveled to the Sorek Desalination Plant, the largest in Israel, and saw how water is pumped 2 km from the sea into the plant and turned into usable water. Israel has made the desert bloom, and this technology has helped make that possible, while also eliminating any water shortage.

At lunch, we joined a delegation of mayors from across Israel, which gave our participants a chance to meet with more peers. As one participant noted, “Mayors love other mayors,” and that was evident in the lively conversation and easy connections.

After lunch, we visited the Barkan Industrial Zone in the city of Ariel. We toured a facility that makes halva (a candy made from tahini) and tahini (sesame paste) and baked goods and is notable for its workforce, which includes a cross section of all of Israel. Palestinian employees earn a very good wage (equal to that of their Israeli counterparts), and the city is proud to be a model for what coexistence based on mutual benefit can look like. The Mayor of Ariel, Eli Shaviro, joined us as well and shared his vision for the growth of his community.

Finally, after experiencing rush hour traffic, we had dinner with journalist Yoav Limor who gave a blunt (and valuable) overview of the challenges facing Israel and the role of leadership in solving the various problems. The mayors deeply appreciated his insights and forthright manner.

Tomorrow will be another fascinating day as we travel by helicopter to the northern border with Syria.

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