By James Russell
Special to the TJP
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price visited Israel last month as part of a bipartisan delegation of United States mayors coordinated by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange. The delegation of seven mayors was lead by Mesa, Arizona Mayor John Giles and also included mayors from midsized cities like Syracuse, New York and Knoxville, Tennessee.
The weeklong seminar is designed to enhance relations between the two countries among municipal leaders from the United States and Europe.
While Fort Worth’s mayor and city council positions are nonpartisan, Price is a Republican, having previously served as the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector. She is currently chair of the Mayors Caucus of Community Leaders of America, a nationwide group dedicated to electing Republicans at the local level.
Israel has historically had the support of both parties, said Daniel Elbaum, the assistant director of AJC, who also accompanied the delegation.
“We (were) honored to host this extraordinary group of leaders at a vital time to visit the state of Israel,” Elbaum said. “Moreover, in this era of increased anti-Semitism both at home and abroad, the visit of these mayors to the Jewish state is a powerful statement of solidarity.”
The agenda included talking with their Israeli counterparts to discuss economic development, technology startups, crime, at-risk youth, education, urban revitalization and city administration. But it also provided insight into larger cultural and social issues, including its diversity and inter-religious cooperation.
Fort Worth already has many strong ties to Israel, and its military in particular. Just last year, the Israel Air Force ordered more than 33 fighter jets from one of the city’s largest employers, Lockheed Martin. They were the first to buy the fighter jet, which has been a decade in the making.
Price is not the only local official to have visited the country. In 2015, a delegation of Hispanic Fort Worth and Tarrant County elected officials visited the country, which Justice of the Peace Sergio De Leon, a Democrat, discussed at this year’s meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C.
While crisscrossing the country, Price was reminded of what many other Texas politicos have recognized in the past. Texans have a hard time understanding the country’s size, Elbaum said. When former President George W. Bush first visited the country, he joked that the state of Texas has driveways bigger than Israel.
In a statement Price said she still took plenty away from the trip.
“I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange trip to Israel. The trip was enlightening and offered unprecedented access into the culture, history and diversity within Israel and the greater Jewish community,” Price said. “I walked away with a better understanding of Israel through meetings with Israeli counterparts, Palestinian, Israeli Arab leaders, and other influential figures across the political and social spectrum.”
Price will discuss her trip at a presentation Monday, Dec. 4, at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. In addition to AJC and Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El Congregation, Chabad of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County are sponsoring the event.