U.S. Mayors Day 3 Blog Post

September 14th, 2017

There is really no better way to appreciate how small Israel is than to travel by helicopter.

Our day began with a helicopter ride from Tel Aviv up north to Ziv Medical Center, which serves the population in the Galilee and Golan Heights. In 2011, Syrians wounded in the civil war began arriving at the border, which began the hospital’s incredible work of caring for injured Syrians despite Syria and Israel having no diplomatic relations. In addition to learning about the extraordinary work of the hospital, we met with a group of 5 young Syrian men (some civilian, some rebel fighters) who asked us to take their plea back to America: We still need help. It was a powerful experience for all of us.

After a wonderful Lebanese lunch in an Arab village, we then traveled to the overlook with Lebanon where we were joined by Brigadier General (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel who gave a sobering overview of Hezbollah and Lebanon. While he hopes that the people of Lebanon can be freed from the clutches of Hezbollah, he knows that it will not be easy or without cost.

We then boarded our helicopters and traveled to Jerusalem. To see Biblical places like Armageddon, the Sea of Galilee and Jericho from a helicopter is quite an experience, as is seeing the checkerboard of settlements and Arab villages in the West Bank. The complexity and close proximity is inescapable.

We then visited City Hall where we met with two members of the staff of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat who described the complex demographics of Jerusalem and the challenges of serving such a diverse and complicated population. With fast growing populations of Arabs and Ultra Orthodox Jews, there are deep and multiple complexities. For the mayors, it was particularly interesting to learn how different the challenges are and yet how - at the end of the day - if a mayor can be effective and make peoples’ lives better, the people can learn to trust the mayor.

We concluded with a fascinating tour of the Western Wall tunnels and a visit to the Western Wall. Jerusalem is a special, holy city and to see it illuminated at night and bustling with activity was a wonderful way to end a long but productive day.

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