New York, NY — A bipartisan group of U.S. mayors just returned from Israel after spending last week in the country as part of a joint American Jewish Committee (AJC) Project Interchange-U.S. Conference of Mayors delegation. The delegation concluded on Friday, April 12, before Iran’s attack on Israel on Saturday, April 13.

The program’s intensive sessions and visits throughout the country enabled Mayors Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, MA; Daniel Rickenmann of Columbia, SC and Travis Stovall of Gresham, OR to gain a first-hand understanding of Israel’s vibrant democracy, diverse society, and the profound effects of the October 7 attacks and subsequent war with Hamas on Israeli society. This is the sixth delegation of U.S. mayors to participate in this annual joint seminar.

“Mayors understand that there is no substitute for learning on the ground from local residents and community leaders. As Israel confronts unprecedented challenges, Israeli mayors and municipal leaders are stepping up to help meet the enormous needs of their communities and of the country,” said AJC Chief Field Operations Officer Melanie Maron Pell. “We are deeply grateful to The U.S. Conference of Mayors and these three remarkable mayors for their participation, their desire to learn, and for their leadership.”

The delegation traveled throughout Israel to meet with municipal and civil society leaders, government officials, and family members of those being held hostage by Hamas. In addressing the effects of the continued hostilities with Hezbollah in Lebanon on Israeli communities in northern Israel, the group met with displaced families from these communities, the Deputy Mayor of Kiryat Shmona Pe’er Lardo, and Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv Haim Goren.

“I was honored to join Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann and Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall in an eye-opening trip to Israel last week,” commented New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who led the delegation. “We learned firsthand about what happened on October 7, the aftermath of the events of that day both in Israel and Gaza, and prospects for a resolution of the current situation and peace in the region. We met with a diverse range of national and municipal leaders, academics, service providers, advocates, and others and returned to our cities with a much deeper understanding of the complicated nation of Israel and the current situation in the Middle East.”

“The eyes of the world are focused on Israel and the Middle East right now and we are glad to have had three outstanding mayors in Israel last week to learn about and see firsthand the situation on the ground,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran. “The Conference appreciates its strong partnership with the American Jewish Committee, which has brought several delegations of mayors to Israel through Project Interchange and made it possible for U.S. mayors to hear from a broad range of experts and leaders in Israeli society and better understand the complex nation of Israel and the challenges it faces.”

Among other meetings, the mayors also received a briefing on humanitarian aid in Gaza from Yotam Shefer, Director of International Organizations, Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT); met with Gali Baram, head of U.S. Government Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on U.S.-Israel relations and cooperation; and traveled to the city of Sderot to hear from Deputy Mayor Hava Nashonow on municipal and civil issues faced by communities on the border with Gaza.

Jennifer Bell (AJC), [email protected], 220-836-9058
Sara Durr (USCM), [email protected]