Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh Say! Can You See....

Tamar Schlossberg

Mark Twain once wrote:There is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent National Asylum for the helpless.”

Without the context, it is hard to discern whether this quote is intended to be read with a sarcastic tone or in a stern and formal manner. Nonetheless, it is an interesting perception to have of Washington, before departing on a journey to meet with members of congress and representatives of several influential organizations. Senior staff members at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies embarked on such a journey this past January. Although the freezing weather was a bit of a shock at first, they were pleased to determine that the weather would be the only cold thing about their trip. And indeed, the warm reception they received from all representatives of the institutions they visited definitely made up for the frosty outdoors.

The concept of gratitude is one that is very much valued at the JIIS; consequently, the trip began with visits to some of our donors and their families. They were very pleased with the visit and the briefing on the Institute’s latest projects, publications and other ardent endeavors.

The JIIS team went on to meet with representatives of: the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, AIPAC, the Center for American Progress and the United States Institute for Peace, before heading to New York to meet with: The Jewish Week, The UJA Federation of New York, and the Jewish Federations of North America. The discussions held were enriching and illuminating, intellectually as well as practically. In addition to outlining our research activities with detailed explanations on the topics of the city’s many faces, the Middle-East conflict, interfaith dialogue, developments in the ultra-orthodox sector, US-Israel relations, and the Al-Jazeera documents, ideas were shared about the practical implementation of the conclusions and suggestions found in some of our research. Different points of view were heard, including some surprising unexpected inside information! Overall the meetings were very fruitful and we look forward to collaborating with many of these organizations to advance mutual goals.

Staying in Washington without visiting the Israeli delegates at our home base, the Israeli embassy, would be an offense to true Israeli hospitality. A presentation was given to update them, mainly on matters regarding Jerusalem, which they were very intrigued by.

As much as everyone longs for peace in the Middle-East, this objective seems to have been overshadowed in the past few weeks by an issue of greater importance, namely, the new bus routes in Jerusalem! Anyone trying to get out and about in the city in recent months – especially via public transportation – can tell a tale or two of frustration and woe due to terrible traffic jams and obstreperous obstacles. You will be happy to read about the meetings held with a specialist on the topic of transportation at the Catholic university and with representatives of the Urban Institute, which sends experts all over the world to devise enhanced urban planning strategies. It looks like a joint project on this theme will be launched shortly. (Check out our statistics about the use of public transportation in Jerusalem). Solving this issue is obviously a high priority, so as to allow decision makers to return to the more marginal issues on the agenda, like the Iranian threat for example.

I think the JIIS travelers would agree with Mark Twain, there definitely is something good and motherly about Washington, and we look forward to expanding such family connections. 



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