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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty
n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.
I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.
While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.
Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.
Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory
Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”
Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?
Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.
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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