(March 20, 2018 / Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.) Brilliant businessman, philanthropist and three-term mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg has been a staunch supporter of Israel throughout his public life—sometimes in its most difficult moments.
The first Israel Day Parade of Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure came in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada. At the time, Israel was subject to vicious attacks for its alleged “disproportionate” response in defending its citizens from suicide bombings and other attacks. By proudly marching in the parade, Bloomberg made clear where he stood: “Given what’s gone on in the Middle East, it is terribly important that New Yorkers send a message to the world: we are behind Israel, and we are against terrorism, period,” he said.
Similarly, during the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration suspended all flights into Ben-Gurion Airport due to the risk of rocket fire. Bloomberg publicly flew to Israel and wrote an op-ed piece strongly disagreeing with this policy, proclaiming that such a decision would embolden Hamas. Once again, Bloomberg led by example. He not only encouraged Americans to visit Israel, he did so himself. Bloomberg further offered a spirited defense of the Israeli incursion into Gaza, noting how rockets and underground tunnels from Gaza had been killing Israelis and threatening lives. He emphasized that the United States would take the same actions if faced with similar threats.
Continuing the legacy of his predecessors, New York Mayors Fiorello LaGuardia, Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg was an unwavering friend to the Jewish state in his years in office.
Bloomberg’s support for Israel has also been felt through his considerable philanthropy, and he has played a major leadership role in the creation of projects that have proved to be a great boon to both America and Israel. He led an effort to create a technology campus on Roosevelt Island in New York as a joint effort between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. He personally contributed $100 million to the project.
Other significant donations of Bloomberg include the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center in the Hadassah Medical Center, and the William H. Bloomberg Magen David Adom Jerusalem station, named for his parents.
In 2014, Bloomberg was honored in Jerusalem as the first recipient of the Genesis Prize. This prize of $1 million is awarded annually to Jewish individuals who have achieved excellence in their professions, and who embody commitment to Jewish values, community and/or the State of Israel.
Bloomberg set a precedent by immediately donating the prize money back, which inspired all subsequent recipients to do so as well.