On a study mission to Israel sponsored by the Yes to a Strong Israel organization and the Washington D.C based Israel Allies Foundation, US Congressmen Bill Johnson (Ohio) and Congressman David McKinley (West Virginia) spent an afternoon in Ariel and the surrounding region on February 24, 2014 to deepen their understanding of Judea and Samaria as the work on Capitol Hill to secure Israeli, and, by extension, American interests.
At the Lipsky Factory at the Barkan Industrial Park, the Congressmen expressed keen interest in industry as a model to foster co-existence. At the plastics factory, they met with CEO Yehuda Cohen who described the spirit of equality with which Israelis and Palestinians work together. They learned how the Palestinian Authority has boycotted products made in Israeli factories in Judea & Samaria, such that anyone “caught” selling such a product are subject to a fine and prison sentence. Notwithstanding that, since almost every household in Palestinian towns in the Ariel region relies on the industrial parks for subsistence, any restriction on employment would goad severe instability and hurt the Palestinian economy.
From a lookout at the Barkan community, they could just see the skyline of Tel Aviv. The view demonstrated the strategic necessity of Ariel and surrounding communities to serve as a protector of Israel’s coastal plains.
A drive through Ariel afforded the opportunity for informal Q&A with host Avi Zimmerman, who pointed out city landmarks and new residential construction which had once been hamstrung by the Obama Administration’s settlement freeze. Construction allows for natural growth and occurs in areas with an already established residential presence.
They topped their tour at Ariel University with a meeting with Chancellor Yigal Cohen-Orgad and a presentation on environmental issues to University students.
“Visiting Ariel was one of the highlights of our seven-day mission,” said EJ Kimball, Washington Director for the Israel Allies Foundation. “We saw how Jews and Arabs, Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents, live together and work together in peace and coexistence. The work going on in Ariel should be supported by the international community as an example of what the future can be.”
“These Yes! Israel missions continue to educate congressmen and other leaders as to the realities behind issues here in the Middle East,” said co-host Ruth Lieberman. “We continue to work together and call on others to join these efforts for Israel advocacy.”