The Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest hosted a program and reception to commemorate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Diamond Anniversary of Independence, with leaders who shape the relationship between Texas and Israel and the whole Southwest. About 400 guests including elected officials, dignitaries and leaders representing business, academia, community, faith and culture were in attendance at the Briar Club in Houston May 18.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered a keynote address emphasizing his strong support for Israel and the special bond shared between Texas and Israel.
“For 75 years, Israel has been our democratic partner in the Middle East, but also around the globe. Very importantly, they have established themselves as a beacon of freedom. Yes, a beacon of freedom for those who reside in Israel. But an exemplar of freedom for everyone around the entire globe. And a testament to the strength and resilience of the Jewish people, as demonstrated every single day.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner shared warm remarks highlighting the deep friendship between Houston and Israel. He highlighted many of the things Israel and Houston have in common.
“We both have a thriving entrepreneurial climate. We see diversity as an engine of growth. We embrace our rich arts and cultural communities. We are pioneers in health care, innovation, in energy, space. And most importantly, we are friends,” said Turner. He praised members of the Jewish community, whom he called friends for helping “to shape and build the city we call the most welcoming, the most diverse and inclusive city in the United States.”
Consul General Livia Link-Raviv thanked Governor Abbott and Mayor Turner for their ongoing support and highlighted the importance of the U.S.-Israel, Texas-Israel and Houston-Israel relationships. She said, “The alliance between Israel and the United States is stronger than ever. We have built a relationship that stands the test of time, that goes beyond politics and parties, a bond which is based upon our shared values of freedom and democracy.”
Link-Raviv said Israel is blessed to have a highly engaged Jewish community in Texas and the Southwest that “has been instrumental in pushing US-Israel relations forward.”
She added, “This community is truly remarkable. I have witnessed your resilience, inspired by your leadership and moved by your commitment to build a brighter future for the next generation. Israel, as the shared homeland of the Jewish people, stands by you arm-in-arm in good times and in bad. We are an unbreakable family. Thank you for your advocacy of Israel.”
The speaking portion concluded with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee discussing the importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance. She applauded the Mickey Leeland Kibbutzim project, which sends 10 high school juniors from District 18 to Israel for a six-week internship each year.
“The strength of Israel in the United States is the building of knowledge. The cementing of relationships in our young,” Lee said, referencing the importance of the teens immersing themselves in Israeli culture during their six-week experience.
A video message from Isaac Herzog, president of Israel, kicked off the evening, which ended with a vibrant musical performance by Israeli country singer Omer Netzer. Deborah Duncan of Great Day Houston served as the master of ceremonies. The Houston Police honor guard presented the colors.