Monday, 07 May 2012
The 28th annual International Mayors Conference opened today in Jerusalem bringing together thirty-seven mayors from all around the globe. Jack Rosen the conference's initiator and chairman of the American Council of World of Jewry greeted participating mayors with a warm speech introducing Minister of Intelligence Affairs, MK Dan Meridor. Minister Meridor presented the audience with a comprehensive assessment of Israel's geo-political standing. Minister Meridor fluent in number of languages responded to questions both in English and Spanish.
Amongst the visiting mayors quite a few have come from exotic and special locations, including:
1. Caracas – Venezuela – Antonio Ledezma
2. Little Rock – Arkansas – Mark Stodola
3. Montevideo – Uruguay – Anna Olivira
4. Frankfurt – Germany – Martin Wilke
5. Saltzburg – Austria- Heinz Schaden
6. Kishinev – Moldova – Dorin Chirtoaca
7. Katmandu – Nepal – Kedar Bahadur Adhikari
8. Addis Ababa – Ethiopia – Kuma Demeksa
9. Dar Es Salaam – Tanzania – Didas Massaburi
10. Kampala – Uganda – Erias Lukwago
11. Florence – Italy – Matteo Renzi
12. Warsaw – Poland – Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz
13. Mixco – Guatemala – Otto Perz Leal
14. ḉankaya – Turkey – Bülent Tanik
Foreign Minister MK Avigdor Lieberman hosted the mayors for lunch in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Minister Lieberman shared with the mayors the importance of a strong Israel in light of its status as the sole democracy in the Middle East. The foreign minister went further to emphasize the joint concern both in Israel and the West regarding Iran and especially the heavy implications of Iran becoming a nuclear power. The foreign minister was introduced personally to the mayors and shook their hands.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat hosted the mayors for the conference's official opening. Mayor Barkat shared with the participants his experiences in running a city of mixed populations as well as the positive outcomes stemming from the utilization of information technologies and effective manage tools.
Inspector-General Yochanan Danino, Chief of the Israel Police Force presented the mayors with his outlook regarding the ways in which police forces should handle violence in communities and cities.
Mr. Jack Rosen lectured on the issue of "Science Diplomacy" and presented his new initiative. Rosen presented participants with a paradigm that aims to utilize the science-oriented focus of Israel’s thriving high tech economy into opportunities to build deeper economic, diplomatic and political ties around the globe. Rosen focused this initiative in regard to their participating mayors inviting to engage stake-holders in their communities to see how Israeli know-how can be channeled into addressing specific needs in their respective constituencies.
Rosen presented participants new planned activities to be organized by American Council of World Jewry in the form of workshops to be held with the mayors and business stake holders to expose Israeli innovation offerings in related fields. Rosen concluded his remarks that Science Diplomacy can be a total win-win for all concerned: an economic development tool, a relationship building vehicle and a contributor to generating better understanding among people throughout the world
The evening culminated with a tour of the enchanted streets of Jerusalem's Old City with the participating mayors being amongst the first visitors to enter the new discovered cave linking the City of David with the Wailing Wall and attributed by some to be the path taken by the Jewish Temple's Grand Priest to his sacramental work during ancient times.
The conference's second day began with a meeting Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who despite the intense political situation requested personally to host the mayors at his office. Jack Rosen the conference's initiator and organizer opened with warm greeting remarks introducing the Prime Minister. Following Mr. Rosen's remarks Prime Minister Netanyahu turned personally to inquire from each and every mayor about their names, seat of power and duration of time in office. Prime Netanyahu emphasized in his remarks Israel's unique economic situation and its success in positioning itself as leader in the fields of technology and homeland security.
Following his remarks, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was presented by Mayor Mr. Peter Panov of Kjustendil, Bulgaria with a framed letter written in 1943 by the Bulgarian ruler who had saved 50,000 of Bulgaria's Jews from extermination by the Nazis. Mayor Panov went on to tell the Prime Minister Netanyahu that the ruler's residence was later to become a museum in memory of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
After a very exciting meeting with the Prime Minister, participants made their way to the IAI (Israel Aircraft Industries) headquarters in Lod to tour the facility and were exposed and were the best and latest technological developments of the Jewish mind. The participants heard a lecture on the subject of deployment of on emergency management systems and anti-terrorism technologies suited for municipal needs. Following lunch the guests went on to tour the Ben Gurion Airport and its renovated Ben-Gurion 2000 complex. The guests were impressed by the investment in the airport's construction and development- especially in regard to the sophisticated defense and security systems deployed. Concluding this insightful tour the group proceeded to head to the city of the Tel-Aviv known as the "the city that never rests."
The delegation met Tel-Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at Tel-Aviv's old City Hall where he received them with a warm welcome. Huldai surprised participants commenting that after serving as mayor for than fourteen years he continues to enjoy the daily challenge. Mayor Huldai shared with participants some of his and predecessor's mayor's experiences in running this unique city. Mayor Huldai continued with an impressive presentation of Tel Aviv's history, geography, economy and culture. Mayor Huldai proudly shared with the participants that Tel Aviv today considered to be one of the world's leading cities as tourist attraction in par with the likes of New York, Paris, London and Rome. Furthermore Huldai shared with participants that Tel Aviv houses a significant concentration of start-up incubators and reminded the delegation that the. Mayor Huldai mentioned as well to the participants that during their third day of visit in the city they shall tour the Rothschild Boulevard district and meet with members of various start-up companies.
Following Mayor Huldai's presentation the participants viewed a fashion exhibition taking place at the venue and were treated to a festive cocktail on top the old City Hall's with a panoramic view of Tel Aviv's night lights. Participants went then on to visit Tel-Aviv were entertainment centers including Jaffa port and its flea market to test the truthiness of Tel-Aviv's slogan "Tel Aviv - the city that never goes to sleep."
The first half of the conference's third day was devoted mostly to lectures and panels. The panels and lectured dealt with the application of security know-how, technological innovation and their influences on individuals and the community at large.
The mayors first met with Mr. Jacob Perry the former head of Shin-Bet (Israel's internal security agency). Perry presented the mayors with his outlook on security affairs, technological advances and their joint influence on societies, countries and the world as a whole. Mr. Perry's fascinating lecture was followed by a panel with executives from the security technology sector that too dealt with technological influences on security matters on the local, national and global level.
The mayors went on to hear a lecture by General (Res.) and Professor Yitzhak Ben-Israel who serves today both as the head of Israel's space program and its cyber-security agency. Professor Ben-Israel illustrated in his lecture the vulnerability of large infrastructure systems to external attack and the possible means for preventing them. The lecture left a lasting impression on the mayors in light of Professor Ben-Israel's wide knowledge and expertise.
The mayors continued the day by meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert requested to be personally introduced to each of the participants, shook their hands and was received warmly by the mayors.
Following a lunch meal the mayors headed to an organized tour in the different parts of Tel-Aviv. The first stop was the new parking complex opened recently at the Habima Square adjacent to Israel's National Theatre. The mayors were impressed by the new building especially due to the fact that its dual purpose is to serve in times of emergency as a mass shelter for all residents of central Tel-Aviv. The delegation continued to the Souraksy-Ichilov Medical Center. At the hospital the mayors were shown a display of operating system dealing with large scale evacuation and rescue for unique warfare scenarios.
Continuing from the hospital the guests arrived at Rothschild Boulevard to meet with the representatives of what has become to be known as "Start-Up Nation". The mayors had the opportunity to personally meet with the people and institutions who serve as the driving force behind Israel's technology start-up scene.
During the evening the guests dined in unique oriental atmosphere across from Tel-Aviv's beach.
The conference's fourth day was devoted to the main city of Northern Israel- Haifa. The city is renowned in its special settings in which Jews, Muslims, Christians and Bahia reside together. In Haifa the mayors were greeted by Mayor Yona Yahav in the city's Mada-Tech Science Museum. Mayor Yahav didn't skip over the question which he asks of Jack Rosen every year since taking office – "When are you coming to live in Haifa?"
Mayor Yahav shared with his guests that the choice to meet them in the science museum is not accidental as Haifa in recent years is positioning itself as a center of technology and higher education. The city houses primer education institutions including Haifa University and the Technion which have produced an impressive number of Nobel prize Laureates. Mayor Yahav also shared with his guests the creation of Haifa's unique high-tech district hosting leading companies such as Intel, Google and Elbit. Mayor Yahav went on to present the guests with Haifa's efforts to become an attraction for both local and foreign tourist visits. Mayor emphasized the city's efforts through the science museum representing the combination of the city's achievements in both fields.
Following Mayor Yahav's remarks the guests turned to touring the museum. The guests explored the museum's exhibitions and enjoyed experimenting with the different wonders of science presented to them while touring.
The visit at the museum was then followed by a visit to the headquarters of the Elbit Corporation. The mayors were received by Mr. Yossi Ackerman, the company's CEO and president. Following Ackerman's opening remarks the mayors were given a presentation by the company's top management team that focused technological capabilities and their application in everyday life. The presentation gave special focus to the concept of Safe City- the secure management of cities and towns. The mayors continued their visit to the headquarters of Israel Electric Company where they were presented with the company's adaption to the conceptual framework of Safe City.
The delegation concluded the day with a tour of Haifa's tourist attractions with a dinner at the Rondo restaurant overlooking the city's panoramic view.
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