The recurring terrorist attacks against Israelis had almost no effect on an official Sandy Springs delegation that just signed a Sister City agreement with the Western Galilee Cluster of 11 municipalities and local authorities.
“We felt just as comfortable walking those streets as we would in Sandy Springs,” Mayor Rusty Paul said after he and five others returned from Israel. The trip secured a connection first proposed by former Israeli Consul General Opher Aviran.
The delegation wasn’t able to visit Jerusalem on Friday, Oct. 16, because the Israeli hosts were being cautious, even though the six visitors said they weren’t worried.
Instead of the Old City, they went to the heavily Arab city of Nazareth, where Paul said they walked around without a police escort.
He and City Council member Andy Bauman, who also made the trip, said they were impressed with the tourist opportunities in the multiethnic communities of the western Galilee, and they expressed optimism that the new relationship between Sandy Springs and the region — only the second Sister City agreement for Sandy Springs — will bring benefits to both.
The two sides are looking for opportunities in technology, health care, and tourism, including the trips made by day schools.
“I just was very proud to be a part of this initiative,” Bauman said. “As an American, as a Jew, I found it inspirational and profound.”
Temple Sinai Rabbi Ron Segal praised the delegation from his congregation’s hometown during the prayer vigil for Israel at Congregation Beth Tefillah, also in Sandy Springs, on Thursday, Oct. 15.
Explaining that he had received an email from Bauman, he said: “Our city is being represented in Israel to strengthen the ties we have together.”
Paul said the one downside is that he needs to fast for a month to lose the weight he gained from the Galilee hospitality.
The Western Galilee Cluster, formed in 2013, has nearly 150,000 residents and is led by Shlomo Buhbut, the mayor of Maalot Tarshiha. The cluster consists of the following:
- Maalot Tarshiha, Mayor Shlomo Buhbut.
- Kfar Vradim, Mayor Sivan Yechieli.
- Migdal Tefen, Mayor Yigal Tzarfati.
- Fasoota, Mayor Edgar Dacuar.
- Maale Yosef, Mayor Shimon Guetta.
- Hurfeish, Mayor Maged Amar.
- Mate Asher, Mayor Yoram Israeli.
- Beit Jann, Mayor Bayan Kablan.
- Mi’ilya, Mayor Aref Hatem.
- Akko, Mayor Shimon Lankri.
- Mazra, Mayor Fuad Awad.