Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Congressmen Continue to visit Judea & Samaria (YESHA)

Dani Dayan with Reps Dave McKinley and Bill Johnson in Psagot
With the expansion of efforts to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict in the next few months, US Congressmen have become regular visitors to Judea & Samaria as they grapple with the realities of the conflict and seek a more realistic view of the prospects for reaching a genuine peace.  Over the last six months twelve US Congressmen in five different groups have visited and explored Judea & Samaria.  Most of them had been to Israel many of times before, yet none of them had ever been to Judea & Samaria.  Without exception, they concurred that visits to the Jewish communities of Judea & Samaria should be mandatory for any officials who hope to be part of the solution.

In February, Rep. Dave McKinley (WV-2) and Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-4), were brought to Israel by Yes: Israel Missions  and the Israel Allies Foundation for an in depth fact-finding mission.  They came to Judea & Samaria to learn first-hand what they can do (within the confines of the US Constitution) to assist the Jewish state against existential threats to her existence.

Reps. Bill Johnson and Dave McKinley along with Dani Dayan and Lital Alfasi of the YESHA Council;
Rabbi Benny Elon, EJ Kimbal and Andras Pataki of the IAF; Ruth Lieberman and Sarah Paley of YES! Israel Missions:
Tamar Assraf of the Benjamin Regional Council, and the Falic family of the Psagot Winery

The Congressmen in front of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
along with David Wilder of the Hebron Fund
The Congressmen speaking with 
Aharoni Neubauer, the Mayor of Neve Daniel
and Moshe Saville, Deputy Mayor of Gush Etzion

After spending time at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, traveling along Derech HaAvot (the ancient highway traveled by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), viewing the first Jewish capital of Shiloh, and learning about the formation of the Gush Etzyon settlements blocks decades before Israel declared Independence in 1948, the Congressmen came away with a comprehensive understanding of the historical – both Biblical and contemporary – ties that Israel has this region. They also took time to get a unique perspective of the region – from Israel's largest (400 meter) zipline in Eretz HaAyalim through the Judean Mountains.
The Congressmen along with journalist Josh Hasten
and Shani Simkowitz of the Gush Etzion Foundation
The Congressmen with Eliana Passentin (far right),
their host at the Tel Shiloh historical site
The Congressmen addressing students at
Ariel University
The Congressmen with
Ariel University Chancellor, Yigal Cohen-Orgad
and Prof. Alexander Bligh (far right) 
A highlight of their visit was their historic addresses to the student body of Ariel University in Samaria.  The Congressmen used that unique platform to address the diverse student body including students of both Jewish and Muslim faith who share the unique constructive path of studying and building a foundation for their lives in an atmosphere of co-existence as opposed to an environment of segregation which the international community continues to insist is the only option to peace.  These students not only know that there is an alternative, but fortunately, they are demonstrating it every day they attend their classes.  In that promising environment the Congressmen's remarks were well received by the student body, and the audience themselves sent the Congressmen back to DC with a true roadmap to peace.

The delegation also had the opportunity visit a

Avi Zimmerman (c) of the Ariel Development Fund and
Yehuda Cohen of Lipski Plastics (right) at the Lipski factory in Barkan
factory where Israeli and PA Arabs work together and manage one another.  They observed the way PA workers are treated justly and ethically by Israeli factories in one of the region's dozens of industrial zones.  They enjoyed a tour of one of the region's award winning
boutique wineries, and had the opportunity to be briefed on a myriad of topics from representatives of NGOs all focused on conveying the realities on the ground in Judea & Samaria to international communities.  See a report of their visit and an interview with Dani Dayan.

Representatives of Judea & Samaria based NGOs
including Yisrael Medad (Shiloh, Begin Heritage Center),
 Marc Prowiser (One Israel Fund), Sandra Baras (CFOIC)
and Orit Afra (Ariel Development Fund)
share valuable insights the Congressmen


The Congressmen meeting a Palestinian
employee at the Lipski Factory 


Dani Dayan addressing the congressmen in Ariel
In November a bi-partisan delegation of seven US Congressman toured the region through the Israel-US Education Association.  The Association which has a deep bond with the City of Ariel's late Mayor, Ron Nachman, had the privilege of learning about the thriving modern city of Ariel, including its bustling university home to 15,000 students, including its growing Arab student population.  Their trip which included visits to Hebron, Shiloh, Gush Etzyon, and Samaria , challenged the conventional wisdom concerning the two-state solution, confronted the realities of the mortal danger Israel would face should Israel be pressured into surrendering the strategic bluffs of Samaria and became familiar with the legal precedent supporting the right of Israel to continue developing and settling throughout Judea & Samaria.  For a more comprehensive perspective of that trip, please view Ariel Development Fund's, Avi Zimmerman's description.
YESHA Council, Chief
Ariel Mayor, Eli Shaviro with Rep. James Lankford
Foreign Envoy, Dani Dayan challenged the delegation regarding the role that the US is playing in brokering these negotiations.  With numerous foreign policy catastrophes challenging America's credibility abroad – from the NSA wiretapping scandal, to Russian Premier Putin's direct challenge of Obama, to Syria and Iran, America can ill-afford another high-profile foreign affairs failure, particularly in the Middle East.  Click here to see some of his remarks.


In September, Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-5) participated in the Israel Allies Foundation solidarity visit to Judea & Samaria.  The delegation included Parliament Members from 25 different countries, all committed to learning first-hand about the conflict, supporting Israel, and sharing their knowledge with others in leadership roles in their home country. 
Rep. Doug Lamborn with Ruth Lieberman,
director of "Yes!  Israel Missions"

Rep. Doug Lamborn with Elie Pieprz of the YESHA Council

Rep. Lamborn sat down with Chris Mitchel of CBN for this engaging interview. As a leader in the pro-Israel community in the US Congress, who had been to Israel numerous times beforehand, this was his first trip to Judea & Samaria.  He explained that the visit provided him with a perspective that he was not even aware was missing.  Please see this earlier blog post for a more detailed account of the entire visit to Judea & Samaria.
In August, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) toured Ancient Shiloh learning about the historical, Biblical and cultural ties the Jewish people have to this land.  He was also very surprised to learn of efforts by Israeli 'settlers' to improve the human rights of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria.  A very important and constructive dialogue has begun with one of the most outspoken supporters of a Palestinian state in the US Congress.
Elie Pieprz of the YESHA Council,
with Rep. Keith Ellison at Shiloh
Rep. Keith Ellison with members of his staff and
representatives of the YESHA Council in Shiloh
Dani Dayan provided Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) with a strategic analysis of the security that the Judean & Samarian communities like Alfei Menashe, provide for the majority of Israeli's who live in the central Tel Aviv region of Israel.  Reichert was able to clearly see how Judea & Samaria are critical for Israel's defense purposes due to its close proximity, overlooking the major Israeli population economic hubs.  As a former Police Chief, he shared his impressions of the efforts of the IDF and local police to protect the Jewish residents throughout Judea and Samaria.  His delegation, which included representatives of law enforcement and first responders' organized by Proactive Global Security, benefited from the opportunity to visit the Jewish community of Hebron and the Cave of Patriarchs.



Rep. Dave Reichert and his delegation in front of
Isaac's Tomb at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron

Rep. Dave Reichert, Elie Pieprz of the YESHA Council
 with policemen & first responders from Washington State


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