Our study tour to Israel has been marked by extreme weather, from snow in Jerusalem to freezing temperatures and gale-force wind on the Golan Heights. Our group of local and state legislators has met with scholars, advocates and government officials representing a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. My goal for this first trip to Israel as an Assemblymember is to build on the already strong economic and cultural ties with California.
On Thursday, we joined Ilan, a former IDF paratrooper and current Kibbutznik for a bumpy jeep ride through the Golan Heights. Our destination: a remote IDF outpost overlooking Syria. Our hosts, an elite squad of soldiers, pointed out villages, towns and strategic roads, in some cases less than 1,000 meters from our position. Some of these places, we learned, are held by rebel troops with a common enemy but different goals, others by the Syrian government. While they are distracted by their war with one another, they frequently take potshots at the Israeli outpost as if to say “don’t think that we have forgotten about you.
As we stood listening in freezing temperatures and braced against a stiff wind, suddenly a loud explosion was heard. A few minutes later, gunfire crackled and echoed against an otherwise silent landscape. Syria is at war.
Everywhere we go in Israel (and a brief journey to Ramallah), we are reminded that Israel is at once strong and resilient, yet fragile and complicated. As we approach the end of this brief visit, I leave with a better understanding of the importance of my legislative mission.
Each year, our Federation’s Community Engagement Strategic Initiative organizes and leads a delegation to Israel for Los Angeles area elected officials. These trips work to strengthen the relationship between Los Angeles and Israel, foster trade, security and cultural relations and help support a secure State of Israel.