Project Interchange trip to Israel: Day 5

Day3eBy Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande

We visited the City of Sderot and received a briefing at a lookout point over Gaza from Captain Kobi Harush, coordinator of Security for the city.  Sderot is along the Gaza Strip and is regularly under rocket attack.  Most of the exploded rockets are from Hamas, but lately, with the instability in the region, more rockets are coming from places like Libya and Sudan. Seeing the remnants of these rockets that were launched into Israel was like seeing a museum of terrorist weapons.

Sderot is the closest city to Gaza.  Because of the short distance these rockets are often shot from playgrounds, schools and hospitals in Gaza, knowing there won’t be a counterstrike.  Since the Arab spring, these rocket attacks have increased.

My visit to the old City of Jerusalem included a visit to the Western Wall – or what is known as the Wailing Wall – a sacred site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries.

I had a very informative meeting with fellow legislators who are Members of the Knesset, the Legislative branch of the Israeli Government.   The 120 members of the Knesset not only pass all laws, but elect the President and Prime Minister as well.  They serve four-year terms, but it is their party that is elected and the party chooses the member.   Fascinating to see the differences between Israel’s form of Democracy and that of the United States.

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Posted: August 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Caroline Casagrande, Israel, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

Project Interchange trip to Israel: Day 4

By Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande

The American Jewish Council once again did an amazing job of making sure we received a broad understanding of what is going on in Israel today.  On Thursday we visited Ramallah in Palestine and met with the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority negotiating team. Both Israelis and Palestinians remain hopeful of positive discussions when Secretary of State John Kerry visits next week. He has a huge challenge ahead of him with these peace talks. Everyone brings to the table thousands of years of their people’s history as well as their personal experience to the discussions.

Friday we visited Yad VaShem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, and it was an incredibly moving experience. It is difficult to imagine how a people moves forward after 6 million are murdered, including 1.5 million children. The museum serves as a stark reminder that there is true evil in the world.  The resiliency and spirit of the Jewish people is astounding.

The individual memorials also serve as a reminder to “Never Forget.” I was particularly drawn to the one for a doctor who took care of children whose parents were missing or killed.  When the children were ordered to be deported to a camp he went with them, reasoning he wouldn’t leave them alone in life nor should they be alone in death.  He is just one of the many heroes in the holocaust.

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Posted: August 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Caroline Casagrande, Israel, Middle East, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »