In his first visit to Israel in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stood firm with Jerusalem and expressed solidarity with Israelis, who are dealing with a month-long wave of Palestinian terror attacks.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off a brief visit to Israel on Saturday, saying he was on a solidarity mission to the country at a “painful moment” after weeks of Palestinian violence.
“It’s a painful moment here in Israel, it’s a moment when I am certainly here in solidarity with the people of Israel,” de Blasio said during a visit with students from a mixed Israeli-Palestinian school. “This has to stop obviously. Look, these are attacks on civilians … No one should be condoning attacks against civilians,” he said on a weekend when Palestinian terrorists carried six terror attacks against Israeli targets.
De Blasio met Saturday with his Tel Aviv counterpart, Ron Huldai, in the seaside city before attending an event in the central town of Beit Shemesh sponsored by the Israeli-Palestinian school Yad B’Yad (Hand in Hand).
Later in the day, de Blasio met Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and visited Israeli terror victims at the Ein Kerem hospital, where he met among others Maria Veldman, an American born nurse and foster mother to 20 Arab children, who was stabbed in the chest in a Jerusalem attack last week.
“We feel extraordinary closeness, our people, by blood, by history,” de Blasio said after the hospital visit while standing beside Barkat. “So when you are going through pain, we feel pain too. When you’re under attack, we feel under attack, and I’m honored to be here in that spirit of solidarity and sense of common destiny.”
“We understand that any act of violence against a civilian is unacceptable and we have to condemn it and we have to stop it,” he added, “Because there can’t be peace when civilians are wantonly attacked just for going about their business.”
“The stories I’ve heard, in the midst of this pain, in the midst of this challenge, can only be described as inspiring, and somehow life affirming,” he added. “It’s a hard thing to imagine at this difficult moment, but what’s happening here reminds us what could be and will be one day.”
Barkat thanked De Blasio for his visit and said the terror attacks in Jerusalem had the same “evil” source as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“The visit is an expression of the true friendship and solidarity between residents of New York and Jerusalem,” he said. “I have no doubt that just as New York residents overcame terror, so can Jerusalem soon return to normalcy.”
The mayor also met with President Reuven Rivlin and Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon.
This is de Blasio’s first visit to Israel as mayor, his fourth overall.
Aides said de Blasio considered a trip to Judea and Samaria, but it was scuttled because of security concerns. He was not scheduled to meet with any Palestinian leaders.
De Blasio arrived in Israel on Friday to participate in the Annual Conference of Mayors organized by the American Jewish Congress, American Council for World Jewry, and World Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry.
Ahead of his trip, de Blasio said the visit has “taken on extra meaning now because of the crisis in Israel” and said it was “very important to stand in solidarity with Israel.”
“I don’t want to pretend to understand the nuances of the situation,” he said. “I think it is important as an outsider to not claim to know more than I do. I think this is a larger human reality that peace is necessary.”