Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio is in town for the 30th International Mayors Conference as well as to show solidarity with Israel.
“We feel extraordinary closeness, our people, by blood, by history,” de Blasio told reporters. “So when you are going through pain, we feel pain too. When you’re under attack, we feel under attack, and I’m honored to be here in that spirit of solidarity and sense of common destiny.”
De Blasio met with Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai on Saturday. Topics on the table included Middle East politics, collaboration between the two cities in the field of technology and startups, and the current spate of terror attacks.
“In the last few days Israel is facing attacks on innocent people. This needs to be said as sometimes the press coverage blurs the truth. Hurting the innocent is immoral, hence it is important we stand by Israel. It is a privilege to be in Israel at this hard moment, in the city of Tel Aviv that represents tolerance and demonstrates how a unified society can look like,” said De Blasio.
De Blasio joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on a visit to three victims of stabbing attacks now recovering at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center. One of the victims, Maria Veldman, is an American-born nurse and foster mother to 20 Arab children.
“You could see the stab wound on her chest. And instead of talking about anger and hatred, she talked about love and a desire to resume her mission,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Daily News.
The New York mayor also visited Yad Vashem and the Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish Arab Education School.
“This is a region that needs peace deeply, and peace is elusive. One of the ways we foster peace is through inclusion. And our hopes have to be with the young people at this point. The previous generation hasn’t managed to find the path of peace,” de Blasio told the New York Daily News. He called the Hand in Hand school, “a hopeful sign.”
Meanwhile, the theme of this year’s mayors conference is ‘Smart Cities.’ The 40 visiting city leaders will meet with top-level Israeli officials, high-tech entrepreneurs, Nobel Prize laureates as well as their Israeli counterparts during the Oct. 18-22, 2015 gathering.
“For the past 30 years, the International Mayors Conference has fostered an international dialogue on creating smarter cities,” said Jack Rosen, chairman of American Council for World Jewry and president of American Jewish Congress. “This initiative brings together local leaders, because we believe in their power to change and improve people’s lives. The unprecedented number of participating mayors coming this year is a testament to the quality of Israeli leadership in technological advancement and urban development.”
The 30th International Mayors Conference is taking place under the auspices of the American Council for World Jewry, the American Jewish Congress, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Israeli Federation of Local Authorities.