New York, NY, December 5, 2011 … A group of Latino and Latin American legislators and public officials from the United States, Chile and Uruguay are currently visiting Israel on a mission sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The 18 participants in the ADL Latino and Latin American Legislators Mission to Israel will spend eight days in Israel, November 28-December 6, visiting places of religious, political and historical importance and meeting with Palestinians, Arab Israelis, Bedouins, Holocaust survivors, members of the Knesset, the Supreme Court and representatives from the Israeli government and civil society.
"The Latino community in the United States is growing and gaining prominence in society, civil rights and politics," said Michael A. Salberg, ADL Director of International Affairs, who is leading the group. "As a result, Latino elected officials are more and more interested in learning about U.S.-Israel relations. They are forming opinions on the importance of those relationships and it is crucial for us to shed light on the complexities Israel faces on the ground."
Legislators from Connecticut, Houston, Illinois, New York, New Mexico, Chile, and Uruguay are participating on the mission, which was coordinated in partnership with the Jewish communities of Chile and Uruguay as well as the U.S.-based National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).
The participants include two members of the New York State Assembly, a New York State Senator, a member of the Illinois State Legislature, a member of the New Mexico Legislature, the head of Uruguay's Independent Party, and several members of the Chilean Parliament.
The ADL mission will provide the elected officials with a broad understanding of Israeli democracy, society, culture, politics and the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is the fourth mission of Hispanic leaders brought to Israel by the ADL. Earlier this month, a group of Hispanic media executives and journalists traveled to Israel on a similar ADL-sponsored mission.
One goal of the mission is to debunk common misperceptions about Israel that are often reinforced in Latin American societies in Spanish-language newswires.
"Combining Latino and Latin American groups on visits to Israel has been a fantastic experience for the participants themselves and for the ADL," said Mr. Salberg. "A trip to what many Latinos view as their religious "Promised Land" enables these groups to learn from each other's experiences and make connections that they wouldn't have made before. Their shared language, culture and passion to empower their communities provide a unique platform for future engagement vis-a-vis the Jewish State."
The legislators will be traveling to important Christian and Jewish holy sites and to various cities including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the Golan Heights. They have toured the Knesset, the old city of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem and the security fence that separates Israel and the West Bank. Among the high-level Israeli officials they meet were Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Knesset Member Avi Dichter from the Kadima party and Naomi Tsur, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem.
This is the fourth mission that the ADL has sponsored for Latino and Latin American groups. Prior trips included prominent civil rights leaders, school officials, community activists and journalists.