Leads American Delegation To 19th Jerusalem Conference of
By Larry Jones
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert welcomed 42 mayors and local leaders from 30 different countries to the nineteenth Jerusalem Conference of Mayors during an opening ceremony held at the Laromme Hotel in Jerusalem on May 9. With only one week before the national elections in Israel, Mayor Olmert told delegates "you have arrived at an important time," as he commented on national politics and the city of Jerusalems preparation for a record number of tourists in the year 2000. Although the news media was very interested in American mayors views about the hotly contested race for prime minister, they had very little to say about the two leading contenders–the incumbent, Benjimin Netanyahu and former military chief of staff Ehud Barak. The day after the conference, Barak defeated Netanyahu by a comfortable margin on May 17 to become Israels new Prime minister.
Salt Lake Mayor and Conference President Deedee Corradini led the American delegation of seven mayors and one county executive to the week-long conference, which was sponsored by the American Jewish Congress, The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs. Commenting on the meeting, Mayor Corradini said "for almost two decades now, this conference has provided mayors from around the globe the opportunity not merely to come to Jerusalem and learn about its great past and present-day progress, but to exchange views about our concerns as municipal leaders and share knowledge about our best practices for addressing problems that we commonly experience." Other American mayors attending the conference included Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness, Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson, Portland (ME) Mayor Thomas Kane, Stamford Mayor Daniel P. Malloy, Waco Mayor Michael D. Morrison, Manchester Mayor Raymond J. Wieczorek and Oakland County (MI) Executive Brooks Patterson.
As in past years, this years conference featured meetings with national and community leaders; workshops on urban trends and challenges at the turn of the millennium, municipal privatization, and citizen involvement and the multicultural experience; site visits to community centers, a hi-tech industrial center, Jewish-Arab village, holocaust memorial, several kibbutzim (communal living arrangements); and tours of the cities of Jerusalem, Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth, and the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, the Masada and the Golan Heights.
President Ezer Weizman Greets Mayors
His Excellency Ezer Weizman, President of the State of Israel, greeted mayors at his official residence on May 12 and provided them a brief history lesson on the state of Israel and its quest for independence and peace. He discussed the early struggles of the nation and the numerous conflicts it had with surrounding Arab nations starting immediately after the modern State of Israel was established in 1948. Weizman spoke about his admiration for former President Jimmy Carter who played a major role in the peace negotiations that led to the 1978 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The agreement was seen as a major breakthrough which allowed the two nations to settle their differences and begin the journey towards long lasting peace.
American Ambassador Host Dinner For American Mayors
American Ambassador to Israel Ned Walker hosted a reception and dinner at his official residence in Tel Aviv for the American delegation of mayors. He told them that President Clinton was strongly committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to ensure lasting peace in the region as the Palestinians move forward in establishing self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
During the dinner, Mayor Corradini presented Ambassador Walker a key to Salt Lake City and a gift on behalf of The U.S. Conference of Mayors in appreciation for his hospitality and providing valuable information about the State of Israel and its relations with surrounding Arab nations. Other mayors also presented personal gifts to the Ambassador.
Jerusalem: City of Tomorrow
During a session on the urban trends facing Jerusalem, mayors were told about numerous construction projects underway to build new hotels and other accommodations as Jerusalem races to prepare for an estimated 2 million visitors in the year 2000. As the religious center for Jews, Christians and Muslims, local leaders are predicting that visitors will come to Jerusalem from all over the world, particularly on significant holidays such Easter and Christmas. They are planning to use the economic growth generated by tourism in the new millennium to transform Jerusalem into a major international center that will continue to thrive in future years. The city faces enormous challenges as it plans to make the transition since the ancient part of the city, which is viewed as the biggest tourists attraction, is not designed to accommodate massive numbers of people. But many changes are being made to do just that. In addition to making improvements to the citys infrastructure, city leaders are considering closing off the old city to regular traffic, and improving traffic management and shuttle services in order to accommodate large numbers of visitors. Mayor Olmert called on mayors from other countries to hold joint international events in Jerusalem and to let local officials know when they are aware of large groups who plan to visit the city. This will help Jerusalem officials better plan to accommodate them.
In Jerusalem mayors visited a number of urban projects where homes, schools and other facilities are being improved. They also visited the Lev Halra inner-city neighborhood community center, which assist new immigrants in learning Hebrew and about the Israeli culture. To demonstrate the training immigrants are put through, mayors were given a lesson in Hebrew.
Tefen: An Innovative Industrial Center
In the city of Galilee, mayors were given a tour of Tefen, an innovative industrial park which serves as home for 30 different companies, all located on a sprawling facility that includes four museums, dozens of open-air sculptures, art galleries, and the Zur Institute for Industrial Education. The idea behind the park is to provide a healthy atmosphere that raises the quality of work and life for workers. Stef Werthemer, founder of Tefen, met with the mayors and told them how he started the industrial park and built ISCAR, a multinational company which supplies percision carbide metal-cutting tools for the automotive, aircraft, and other product industries. The company exports 98 percent of total production. Mayors toured the hi-tech facility and got a first-hand view of how robots and workers work together to produce the tools.
Among other activities, mayors planted trees in the Mayors Grove in Jerusalem; toured the the Masada, an ancient fortress built by Herod the Great located near the western shore of the Dead Sea; toured Ein Gedi Kibbutz; and visited Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam, a Jewish-Arab village with a bi-lingual school, kindergarten and school for peace. At the closing ceremony on May 15, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert inducted mayors into "The Most Honorable Order of Fellow Mayors for Jerusalem."