Ohio House of Representatives Explore Israel Together

Tags: Federation, Blog, Israel, Advocacy

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by Jason Wuliger, government relations committee chair, and Marc Ashed, assistant vice president / external affairs, Jewish Federation of Cleveland

Hine ma tov, shevet achim gam yachad, how good it is for brothers & sisters to sit together.”

These words rang true throughout our recent trip to Israel with a delegation of leaders from the Ohio House of Representatives hosted by Ohio Jewish Communities and the Negev Foundation. As we toured the country exploring religious sites, cultural sites and opportunities for trade and cooperation between Ohio and Israel, there was an aura of togetherness that transcended partisanship and geography.

For many of the representatives, this was their first trip to Israel so we wanted to be sure they got an in-depth and accurate view of the country. We spent meaningful time at an absorption center focused on Ethiopian immigrants, shared Shabbat dinner with an Israeli nonprofit leader who is helping disadvantaged students from lower-performing schools and met with Arab-Israelis in business and journalism.

We had an emotional visit to Yad Vashem capped off by Ohio Speaker Jason Stephens and Minority Leader Allison Russo jointly laying a wreath to honor the memory of the six million Jews systematically murdered in the Holocaust. At that moment, they were not Republicans or Democrats but simply fellow Ohioans pledging “Never Again.”

We also had the honor of hosting the first Muslim member of the Ohio legislature to travel to Israel. He enthusiastically joined us at the Western Wall and then walked a short distance to pray at one of the holiest sites in Islam: the Al Aqsa Mosque – something not possible just some 50 years ago.

The delegation learned about the culture, the collective, and the “chutzpah” that has made Israel an ambitious, cutting-edge country that is front and center on the world’s stage. We met with leaders from Mekorot, the national water company which leads the way in water reclamation and infrastructure investment in the public water system, Start Up Nation Central, and the Israel Innovation Authority which offered insights into the startup ecosystem and initiatives that can be introduced here in Ohio to advance technology in the fields of agriculture, water, food, and medicine. Over the course of these discussions, we explored various solutions on a wide range of mutual challenges, from clean water to drone regulations within the transportation industry.

It was an honor to explore Israel in all of its colors, shapes, and sizes with Ohio leaders at a time when hope, inspiration, and unity is needed in both countries. On our last night, we had the opportunity to reflect on our trip and one of our guests observed that the relationships built between them during their time together in Israel will serve Ohioans well. By providing a rare opportunity for the members to connect across party lines, we have created a positive environment that should reverberate well beyond the issues we tackled on our trade mission. “Hine ma tov, shevet achim gam yachad, how good it is for brothers & sisters to sit together.”

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