Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Villaraigosa renews his Israeli ties

To celebrate Israeli@60, Jewlicious started a feature called 60Bloggers, which has included a few notable names thus far, including Gary Wexler and The Calendar Girls. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added his name Monday, drawing comparisons to the "culture and commerce, and ties of blood and family":
Los Angeles and Israel are both homes of creativity and bastions of innovation - places defined by a deep respect for diversity, a longstanding belief in what’s possible, and the fervent hope, dream and commitment to build a peaceful tomorrow.

Here in Los Angeles, we celebrate the state of Israel and our own Israeli community in a variety of ways. We host the largest showcase of Israeli films in the United States and we have built a strong relationship with our sister city, Eilat. Thousands of Israeli students of all ages have attended and enriched our schools and synagogues, and Israeli security specialists have come to the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport to help protect airline passengers and foreign visitors. Each year, the city’s Israel Festival brings together over 40,000 people in the largest celebration of Israeli culture anywhere. And, overcoming the obstacles faced by so many immigrant groups, the vitality and vibrancy of L.A.’s Israeli families never diminish and only grow stronger every day.

Israel’s 60 years have been shaped by the resilience, strength and devotion of its people. Through criticism and condemnation, the Jewish state has stood up for the values and principles that have long made the Jewish people a “light unto the nations.” Israel’s citizens have kept faith with the hope – “ha-tikvah” – that they might live as a free nation, in peace and security, in the land of their ancestors. I know the City of Los Angeles and our people will continue to benefit from a close relationship with the State of Israel long into the future.
Villaraigosa has a very close relationship with L.A.'s Jewish leaders. He's been called an "honorary member of the Tribe" and his best buddy on the City Council is Jack Weiss, who represents the city's most Jewish district.

As Speaker of the California Assembly, Villaraigosa twice visited Israel, and two years ago he developed a relationship with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal. Efforts last summer to organize a mayor's trip to the Jewish state were unsuccessful; I've been told his calendar is marked for a week-long trip next month.

Though he couldn't see the holy sites or dignitaries from the San Fernando Valley on Sunday Villaraigosa had the chance to speak with several thousand Israelis at the annual Israel Festival at Woodley Park.

I was there, but, vainly attempting to avoid the heat of the day, before the mayor arrived. Between dripping buckets of sweat and being shown how to solve a Rubik's cube by a Messianic Jew, I enjoyed fake Hebrew coke and picked up books about Spinoza and Koufax. It reminded me of something a former field deputy for U.S. Rep Brad Sherman, who is Jewish and represents part of the Valley, once told me:
The biggest threat to Israel is Tarzana, Calif. It looks like Israel; it feels like Israel; and the people all speak Hebrew.

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