A group of ten Minnesota legislators returned late last week from an eight day trip to Israel, and the West Bank.
“This was a very successful trip," said Hornstein. “Our interfaith and bipartisan group had a chance to experience many dimensions of this dynamic region, including diverse perspectives on the peace process. It is more important than ever for leaders at all levels of government to develop a global perspective, especially in a region of such significance for Christians, Jews, and Muslims.”
In addition to visiting sites of religious and historical significance, the Minnesota legislators participated in meetings with local officials and discussed:
• The current state of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority including meetings with chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, and an official from the Israeli Foreign Ministry
• Met with the parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit, and presented proclamations from the cities Minneapolis and St. Paul demanding his release from Hamas captivity in Gaza, as well as numerous letters of solidarity from Minnesota residents
• Participated in a ceremony at Israel's Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, honoring Representative Bernie Lieder for his role in liberating Nazi forced labor camps in World War II
• Discussed joint Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian initiatives to address regional water issues. The group visited Peace Island in the Jordan River, the site of a proposed international peace park to promote tourism, water conservation, and other cross-border cooperative ventures between Israel and Jordan
• Toured West Bank city of Bethlehem and met with Palestinian civic leaders and youth
• Visited three Israeli high tech companies, Bright Source Energy, Cima Nanotech, and Better Place which are conducting intensive research and development of technologies to promote solar energy, and electric vehicles. Cima Nanotech is headquartered in St. Paul with its R and D operations in Ceasaria, Israel
• Visited an Israeli pre-school for Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, funded in part by donations from the Minneapolis Jewish Federation
• Toured the Golan Heights and received a briefing on security issues along Israel's border with Syria and Lebanon with a retired Israeli General.
• Met with the director of the Geneva Initiative, a non-governmental organization that has developed a joint Israeli and Palestinian blueprint for a peace agreement.
"This journey has been a life altering experience,” said Sen. Terri Bonoff. “I am deeply moved by the historical significance of this region, the complexity of this conflict and the importance of getting it right. While I have discovered the improbability of an easy solution, I have also become convinced that solving this peace puzzle is imperative. The security of all nations is inextricably linked to it."
Minnesota lawmakers joining Rep. Hornstein on the visit include Rep. Bernie Lieder, Crookston; Rep. Tina Liebling, Rochester; Rep. Steve Simon, Saint Louis Park; Rep. Jeremy Kalin, North Branch; Rep. Sandra Masin, Eagan; Rep. Sarah Anderson, Plymouth; Sen. Terri Bonoff, Minnetonka; Sen. Ann Rest, Golden Valley; Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Minneapolis.
Members of the delegation are available for interviews concerning any of the above topics and to share general perspectives on the trip.
All of the trip participants covered their own expenses, and the delegation's visit was not sponsored by any organization. Several local groups assisted with specific meetings. The Minneapolis Jewish Federation coordinated the visit to the child care center, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and Israel Programs Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation arranged the meeting with Gilad Shalit's parents, and the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce – Minnesota helped to connect the delegation with Cima Nano Tech, an Israeli high tech company.