BY JORDAN GIBBONS
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) joined 14 other City Council members on a trip to Israel last month that he said revealed first-hand how complicated the conflict is between Israel and Palestine.
During the nine-day trip that included Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Council members visited with leaders from Israel and Palestine, as well as children and an absorption center for Algerian immigrants who are transitioning into Israeli life.
“We got to hear from different sides,” Richards said. “There is a lot of work to be done there.”
One thing Richards said stood out was that people from the West Bank to Gaza to Israel all want to find peace on the ground.
Richards said he got to see a missile close up that had been fired into Israel. He said the turmoil there is even more complicated than he envisioned, but as long as Hamas is in the equation, it’s going to be hard to attain peace.
“Terrorism is real is the biggest thing I can take back to my constituents,” he said. “But we do need to get to a place of peace for the betterment of that nation.”
Richards said that he is a strong supporter of Israel and as long as people are launching missiles at them, they have to defend their home.
“The trip strengthened my resolve in that we need to support Israel, but it’s very complicated,” he said. “Everyone we spoke to wants peace; they want the same things we have here.”
Richards’ district includes a large Jewish community in Far Rockaway, which is why he felt it was important to take the trip and see for himself what that area of the world is experiencing.
Richards said that besides being informative, the trip was also a historic and spiritual one. He said he visited the spot where Jesus was crucified and also got to dip his feet in the water where John baptized Jesus.
The Council took the trip despite protests by pro-Palestinian activists, including one group who interrupted a Council meeting in January.
He came away with one major positive from talking to the younger generation of Jews and Palestinians.
“There’s a lot of hope that they will find peace in the future,” he said.
The trip was paid for by Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.
The Council members escaped the frigid weather of New York, only to be greeted by a rare snowstorm in Jerusalem that dropped 10 inches of snow on the city. Historically, snow is not as commom in Jerusalem as it is in New York.
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, email@example.com or @jgibbons2.