July 14, 2024
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Congressmen Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson Visit ‘The Deal of the Century’ Region Firsthand

Serendipity. It’s a word that I never learned in high school as it was too far along the alphabet for me to reach it when studying for the SATs long ago. But I find myself using it often in recent days, as I was privileged to accompany two U.S. Congressmen and their wives throughout Israel. Though the trip was planned many months ago, with great serendipity, their arrival could not have been timed more perfectly.

Congressmen Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Johnson of Louisiana have proven themselves to be staunch friends of the state of Israel. Both in and out of the halls of Congress, they have been unabashed in their defense of the country and have advocated for furthering the partnership of the U.S. and Israel as we face common enemies and stand for parallel ideals. Unsurprisingly, they are also supporters of President Trump and have shared their admiration for the president’s decisions that reflect his unmatched friendship with Israel.

Congressman Jordan is well known for his position on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with his impassioned, expert defense of the president throughout the impeachment hearings. Congressman Johnson heads the Republican Study Club, and has quickly risen to become an influential leader on the Hill.

My wife, Sarah Paley, and her partner, Ruth Lieberman, have hosted over 15 congressional missions over the past seven years with their grassroots Yes! Israel Project. I have observed these missions from afar, proud of the hard work that she does with Ruthie to bring the members to Israel and get the appropriate messaging to them. But for this trip, Sarah encouraged me to “tag along” on the mission. And am I thrilled I did!

Due to the recent release of Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” the congressmen visiting the region at this particular time was extremely significant. In light of the close relationship that both Reps. Jordan and Johnson have with the current administration, we felt it was critical and opportune to bring them to the very areas under discussion. Unfortunately, existing sponsored travel focuses solely on areas within “the green line,” and therefore diplomats and politicians brought from large pro-Israel lobbies are rarely able to visit sites in Judea and Samaria. Yet these areas, the people and history, are the focus of much political talk when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. Yes! Israel missions intentionally place a great emphasis on bringing our guests to areas throughout “Yesha” and expose them to varied voices and personalities representing different stripes of Israeli society.

This trip was planned with great care to afford our guests a firsthand experience of the places everyone is talking about. In addition, we arranged meetings and briefings from the highest political echelons, military and strategic leaders who shared in detail their views on ramifications of implementing the Trump vision.

Upon landing in Ben Gurion, we headed straight to Modiin to visit a Second Temple-period synagogue and emphasized the archaeological proof that ties our land to our people. We then welcomed our guests with a quiet and restful Shabbat in Gush Etzion, with festive meals and engrossing, open discussion. On Shabbat day, we enjoyed a walk through Alon Shvut and visited the new walkway dedicated to the memory of Ezra Schwartz, a young Bostonian learning in Israel who was murdered nearby. On Saturday night, we enjoyed a discussion with the Kohelet Policy Forum, hearing from important voices who aid in formulating Israeli government policy.

Sunday, we hit the ground running, first to the Jordan Valley, to the location where the 12 tribes crossed the Jordan River, as well as a chives processing plant where Jews and Arabs work side by side. We heard from Arabs who are fearful to share their positive views of working with Jews, due to threats exerted by the PA. We proceeded to the Golan Heights where we checked out the newly dedicated Trump Heights, and met prominent IDF generals who reviewed the tense situation with Syria. We enjoyed dinner with the mayor of the Golan and learned of an economic boom due to international interest in the area, following the U.S. recognition of sovereignty.

Monday was focused on the newly proposed Biblical Heritage Trail, designed to bring tourists to important Biblical sites, beginning in Beersheba, where excavations have been dated to the times of Avraham, and continuing through the stunning Judean Hills, via Hebron and then further into the Samarian region with visits to critical settings described in Tanach, including Bet El and Shilo. Congressman Johnson was particularly taken with the Hebron Hills region. A bible teacher for many years, he was thrilled to spend a tranquil morning where King David traversed and likely wrote many of his Psalms.

A separate article could be written about our trip to our patriarchs and matriarchs in Hebron. Suffice it to say that all were inspired and moved, with some of our guests brought to tears. Our day concluded with a roundtable discussion attended by local leaders who weighed in on the ramifications of applying sovereignty to the region.

Tuesday was jam-packed with an early-morning sojourn to the Temple Mount with MK Yehuda Glick. Next was a visit to the Barkan Industrial Zone in the Shomron, where 161 thriving businesses employ thousands of Jews and Arabs working side by side; Ariel University, where Israel’s newest medical school has been founded; and meetings with Israeli politicians included Ministers Gilad Erdan, Amir Ohana and Nir Barkat.

Highlights from our final day included an exclusive tour of the newly discovered Path of the Pilgrims, the road that Jewish pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem would use on their ascent to Har Habayit. For devout Christians and Jews alike, this “hello from history” was especially meaningful. We facilitated a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who carved out time from his pre-election schedule to welcome the Congressmen. Finally, we capped off the day at our new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and were hosted by Ambassador David Friedman, who showed us around the second most popular tourist destination in Israel (the Embassy seal!) and shared insights about the proposed plan.

Throughout the trip, Congressmen Jordan and Johnson were bombarded by adoring fans, both American and Israeli. They repeatedly expressed their amazement at how the “reality on the ground” looks much different from the way the media presents it. We met many Jewish and Arab families, who are peacefully and mutually developing the local industry and economy. We saw firsthand how the proposed plan could bring great benefits to all of the inhabitants of the land, but also heard from some locals of the resistance to any discussion of a Palestinian state.

In our wrap-up with the host team, the congressmen expressed their intention to report their findings directly to the Trump administration and provide their profound impressions with the relevant parties there. On Thursday evening, March 5, at 8 p.m., at the home of Dr. Howard and Miriam Fruchter, 358 Edward Avenue, Woodmere, Sarah and I will share our experiences in greater detail and will provide more information about the Yes! Israel Project and how we are able to bring influential personalities to the region and thereby help shape U.S. policy towards Israel. Please join us!

By Jonathan Paley

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