New York, NY, December 3, 2012 … A group of influential Latino community leaders from across the United States traveled to Israel last week on a mission sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), learning firsthand about the rich texture and resilient nature of Israeli society, its culture and politics, the complexity of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and the challenges Israel faces from upheaval and instability in the region.
The mission, which included prominent Latino leaders from Denver, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, went ahead as planned despite the recent escalation of hostilities in southern Israel, with mission participants eager to learn as much as they could about Israel in challenging times. The mission, which concluded on Dec. 2, was scheduled months before the escalation of hostilities.
“I’m humbled for the unique opportunity given to me and other Latino leaders from the United States and impressed with the hospitality offered to us by our hosts in Israel,” said Werner Oyanadal, acting Executive Director of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. “I take with me a deep appreciation of the richness of their culture and a better understanding of the complexity of their struggle to coexist in peace in the Middle East.”
The 19 participants in the ADL Latino Leaders Mission to Israel spent a week in Israel, visiting places of religious, political and historical importance and meeting with representatives from nonprofit organizations and the Israeli government, security analysts, Holocaust survivors, Israeli-Arabs, Israeli entrepreneurs and journalists.
The mission was the latest in a series of trips to Israel over the past three years as part of ADL’s continuing efforts to enhance relationships with leaders of the Latino communities in the United States through engagement and programming stressing common bonds and concerns. These missions to Israel educate Latino leaders and influentials about the deep Jewish connection to the biblical homeland of the Jews, the complexity of the modern Jewish and democratic state of Israel and the importance to both countries of the strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
“We want Latino leaders to experience Israel, not only from a religious, historical and cultural perspective, but also to better understand the common values and interests that Israel and America share in promoting democracy, combating terrorism and achieving stability in the region,” said Michael A. Salberg, ADL Director of International Affairs, who accompanied the group in Israel. “For many of the participants an opportunity to visit Israel was the trip of a lifetime. Coming to Israel at this particular time enabled them to see how Israeli life goes on in the midst of conflict, and to hear from different voices and points of view among Israeli society.”
The Latino leaders visited key Christian and Jewish holy sites and traveled to various parts of the country, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. They also met with ordinary Israelis living in the south of the country who are regularly victimized by indiscriminate rocket fire from terrorists in Gaza, and traveled along the security fence that separates Israel and the West Bank.
Prominent organizations represented on the mission include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), LatinoJustice, Univision, the Americas Business Council Foundation, Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO), Si! Communications, AVANCE, Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO), Si! Communications, AVANCE, Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) and the Campaign for College Opportunity.
Among the participants in the mission were Alejandra Moran, President and CEO of Si! Communications; Claudia Puig, Senior Vice President of Univision Radio; Baldomero Garza, National Vice President of LULAC; and Werner Oyanadel, acting Executive Director of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.