In a world that suffers from misled and delusional people who confound right from wrong and just from unjust, it was a breath of fresh air to witness strong leadership and moral clarity when I had the privilege of accompanying Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on his third visit to the State of Israel.
There was something special about this visit, which I believe is worthy of sharing, and I learned some important lessons from it.
In my two decades serving as a diplomat on behalf of the State of Israel, both as a policy adviser to three foreign ministers and as an ambassador, I have accompanied and attended meetings with many distinguished delegates on visits to Israel.
In foreign relations, I have learned to distinguish between different types of relationships between leaders and nations. We diplomats usually refer to different levels of connection. Most often we hear of “joint interests,” which is the most common feature since two entities can always find a confluence of interests. A deeper level of connection is “shared values.” Israel and the European Union, for example, share the values of democracy, personal freedom and liberty of the individual.
A deeper level of relationship, which is less common, is that of genuine and true friendship. There is often an intangible element involved in this, which includes trust, honesty and a bond that goes beyond self-interest.
For four days, I had the privilege of witnessing that type of bond develop and express itself during Ducey’s visit. Following this whirlwind trip, I can unequivocally state that Arizona and Israel demonstrated a true, authentic and exceptional friendship.
Such a relationship between Israel and a U.S. state should be natural. Israel has no better ally than the United States, and the United States has no better friend than Israel. Yet such a relationship should not be taken for granted.
We live in a world where anti-Semitism masks itself as anti-Zionism and Israel’s history is rewritten and revised in classrooms and on campus on a daily basis. Inspired by radicals who oppose peace in the Middle East, bodies at the United Nations seek to erase Jewish history and our presence in the Holy Land. One-third of Israel’s civilian population is regularly under rocket attack. Tragically, many leaders around the globe choose the path of silence and neutrality in the face of these injustices.
As a former professor of Jewish history, the attempts to revise history and promote disinformation for political reasons is the most unsettling aspect of this. Such revisionism usually takes place in the context of the historical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The Israel-bashers try to deny that historical connection and erase it, although it is documented in the Bible and other literary sources, as well as by many archaeological discoveries.
Ducey chose the timing of his trip to both figuratively and literally stand with Israel and her people, and in doing so, he courageously and proudly upheld historical truth and the biblical narrative.
The governor visited the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, toured the ancient City of David and made a point of being in Jerusalem on “Jerusalem Day,” celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem with the Israeli people. Despite the dense crowds, the closing of roads and the general rumpus, Ducey walked his way to the Western Wall in sweltering weather. I will never forget standing at the observation point with the governor that day, watching tens of thousands of Israeli youths sing and dance at the Western Wall plaza.
This is not the first time Ducey has demonstrated his bond with the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Besides statements of support too numerous to mention, he legislated the prohibition of BDS, was the first governor to divest funds from Ben & Jerry’s after the company decided to discriminate against Israel, opened Arizona’s first trade office in the Jewish state and legislated Holocaust education and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.
During the governor’s visit, the pace was so fast that Usain Bolt would have been challenged to keep up. Gov. Ducey held political meetings at the highest level, including audiences with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion and other senior officials. Several meetings were held with business leaders promoting cooperation in the fields of water technology, defense, security systems and innovation. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Chamber of Commerce of Arizona and the Israeli Federation of Chambers of Commerce. The governor also planted a tree in Israel at a ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11 with Ambassador Thomas Nides and visited several Christian sites.
This was not a standard visit by a foreign dignitary. It was a demonstration of leadership and the courage of a person’s convictions. Gov. Ducey demonstrated this by standing with Israel and not being silent in the face of lies and injustice.
I will draw my own lessons from this whirlwind trip: The importance of adopting the path of genuine leadership, courage and moral clarity. Taking the road of principle and purpose. Taking a stand on issues that matter.
My hope is to continue working together with the state of Arizona for the betterment of humankind and to bring blessings upon the citizens of Israel and Arizona alike.
Dr. Hillel Newman is the Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Southwest.
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