Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
When I received the invitation from Shani Hikind at the Ateret Cohanim/Jerusalem Reclamation Project to accompany 2008 Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee on a mission to Israel, I immediately accepted.
Having heard him speak during many campaign debates and being a fan of his FOX News television show, I knew that traveling with Huckabee was certain to be an extraordinary experience.
I arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport late Saturday night, August 15, and waited at the gate to board El Al’s midnight flight to Israel. An unassuming man walked into the area – no entourage, no guards, no secretaries, no press. When I looked a second time, I realized it was Huckabee.
I approached him, introduced myself, and told him I was part of the group with which he would be traveling. He was as gracious as could be, accepted some books and materials I’d brought for him, and agreed to have a photo taken with me.
From that time on, he called me “Helen” whenever we met. He had the same warm quality with everyone in the group, remembering each person’s name and always greeting each with a smile.
Our first day was concentrated in Jerusalem, with a fascinating tour of the City of David, where ancient excavations dating back 3,200 years have been discovered. This was followed by trips through the former Yemenite village in Silwan, now mostly Arab; a visit to Ma’aleh Hazeytim, a flourishing Jewish development on the Mount of Olives; and a delightful stop at Kidmat Zion, adjacent to the ugly wall that cuts through Jerusalem and separates Abu Dis from the rest of Jerusalem.
While most of us enjoyed a picnic lunch in the lovely shaded forest area adjacent to Kidmat Zion, Huckabee sat in the hot sun, in front of a stunning view of the Old City, and gave interview after interview to a seemingly endless procession of reporters.
Huckabee’s remarks to the press have been well reported, but there were some comments that stand out in my memory. He believes two sovereign nations cannot control the same piece of territory. He affirms the unique relationship between the U.S. and Israel, which he describes as organic, with both having experienced the same struggle and victory.
When asked about the “occupation,” he responded brilliantly, describing Israel’s government as one of accommodation rather than occupation. He spoke of Israel’s efforts to bring all types of services to the Arab communities such as schools, infrastructure development, hospitals, and welfare payments.
The Moskowitz family, which bought the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, hosted a cocktail reception at the hotel on Monday evening. Although the hotel is adjacent to Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, its purchase by a Jewish family, for the purpose of converting it into apartments for Jews, had set off a storm of protest in Israel.
As we arrived, we saw Peace Now protestors screaming their opposition to Huckabee’s presence. Huckabee responded to their insults and noise by noting that the fact they could freely behave in such a fashion simply demonstrated Israel’s democratic character.
On Tuesday, Huckabee was given a tour of Ma’aleh Adumim and the E1 corridor to Jerusalem and visited the Shomron – Beit El, Har Greezim overlooking Shechem, Har Bracha, and Givat Olam.
He spoke about the deep support for Israel among American evangelical Christians and declared that “Abandoning the Israel-U.S. relationship would be the undoing of both countries.” That evening, at a cocktail reception in Jerusalem attended by members of Knesset and other dignitaries, Huckabee was presented with photos and plaques for his deep devotion to Israel.
The next day, Huckabee visited the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem, where he met Rivka Goldschmidt, an evacuee from the destroyed Gush Katif communities. He spoke to her earnestly, listening to her description of what it was like to have led a useful and productive life in a beautiful home and community and then have it all torn away.
He seemed deeply moved by what he heard, and also by the vivid photos and emotional film of the expulsion.
Huckabee was on hand to greet us at our farewell dinner at the Between the Arches restaurant in the Old City, shaking hands and posing for photos. I spoke with him briefly about his plans to visit Israel again next winter with a Christian group and reminded him that Herbert Zweibon, chairman of my organization, Americans For a Safe Israel, has always worked closely with the Christian community and that he looked forward to working with him on his next visit.
About the Author: Helen Freedman is executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel/AFSI. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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Israel would love to be in the coalition,but it’s never going to happen, because, in the end, most of America’s allies would walk away if Israel were on board officially.
Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?
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Seventeen visual skills are needed for success in school, sports, and everyday life.
We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.
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Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.
Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents
National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s
A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.
The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.
Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.
What we saw was Arab arrogance, audacity, and terror that was completely out of control.
Reflecting back on the experiences our AFSI Chizuk group shared on its 31st mission to Israel, opposing words, thoughts and images come to mind.
Herbert Zweibon, founder and chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI, died on Jan. 19 at the age of 84. It was Tu B’Shevat, holiday of the trees, which only seems fitting because Herb was someone who spread his branches wide, sheltering not only his beloved family but an array of people and causes, planting seeds of wisdom and truth.
It is now five years since the mass expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. The anniversary falls on Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. We also mark the modern-day destruction of Jewish life.
The May 9-17 AFSI Chizuk mission was another remarkable exploration into the enigmatic world of Israel. In that beautiful country live remarkable Jews who put their lives on the line every day. As Hizbullah in the north, Hamas in the south and the PA’s Fatah in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem threaten Israel, the Netanyahu government has the unenviable task of making life and death decisions while contending with pressure from the Obama administration, which seems unwilling or unable to comprehend the dangers.
We gathered on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, diagonally across from the Waldorf Astoria hotel, on a balmy evening last week to serve as a counter-protest against those who would defame and denigrate the IDF.
Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI and Manhigut Yehudit recently conducted its latest Chizuk Mission to Israel. These missions are designed to cover as much of the contested land of Israel as possible in a jam-packed week of visits to all parts of the country. We visited the Binyamin area, the Shomron, the northern Shomron, the Galilee, the Negev, Hebron – and of course, Yerushalayim.
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