May­ors’ trip to Is­rael called ‘very en­light­en­ing’

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - International - JEN­NIFER TZIVIA MA­CLEOD SPE­CIAL TO THE CJN, JERUSALEM

Toronto and Mon­treal may­ors John Tory and De­nis Coderre wrapped up a week-long mis­sion to Is­rael on Nov. 18 with a visit to Yad Vashem and sightseeing in Jerusalem’s Ma­hane Ye­huda Mar­ket and the Old City, a wel­come break after a hec­tic week of travel, from Haifa in the north to Be’er Sheva in the south, along with the West Bank.

“It’s un­be­liev­able how much we’ve ac­com­plished,” said Rob Dou­glas, CEO of Bio­con­nect Inc., who joined Tory’s 50-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion. The may­ors pur­sued dif­fer­ent agen­das, with over­lap­ping stops over the week.

Both vis­ited Be’er Sheva, an emerg­ing high-tech hub, as well as Beth­le­hem and Ra­mal­lah in the West Bank. Coderre’s 70-mem­ber team spent time at the an­nual Home­land Se­cu­rity and Cy­ber Con­fer­ence on Nov. 16 while Tory vis­ited Tech­nion Uni­ver­sity the day be­fore.

“It was very en­light­en­ing,” Toronto City Coun. James Paster­nak told The CJN of the Tech­nion visit. “See­ing how Is­rael grooms the best and the bright­est for sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, and how it’s part­nered with other col­leges to ex­pand its world­wide reach.” Tech­nion opened a branch in China in 2015, and cur­rently part­ners with nu­mer­ous Cana­dian in­sti­tu­tions.

For Paster­nak, a key goal was en­cour­ag­ing Is­raeli com­pa­nies to come to Toronto. “Our city is open for business,” he said. “We’re telling Is­raelis that Toronto is a great op­por­tu­nity to spread the reach of the start up na­tion.”

As Greg Wol­fond, CEO of Se­curekey Tech­nolo­gies and part of Tory’s del­e­ga­tion, told The CJN, “We’re start­ing to show the world that Canada can lead.” Wol­fond said the group met with mem­bers of the Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice to show­case Cana­dian in­no­va­tions. “We couldn’t do that if we didn’t have mis­sions like this.”

The Mon­treal del­e­ga­tion pur­sued sim­i­lar in­ter­ests. Is­raeli textile man­u­fac­turer Te­fron com­mit­ted to move its North Amer­i­can head­quar­ters from New York City to Mon­treal, which Coderre noted is part of the city’s re-emer­gence “as a ma­jor player... after many dif­fi­cult years in the textile and fash­ion in­dus­try.” Tourisme Mon­tréal also signed an agree­ment with the Jerusalem Con­ven­tions & Visi­tors Bureau.

Coderre also an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Phin­ergy, an elec­tric car bat­tery com­pany that will see it test its lat­est tech­nolo­gies in Mon­treal.

At the Ko­tel for Shab­bat, Coderre re­cited Kad­dish for Leonard Co­hen to­gether with Chief Rabbi Rabi­novitch and with for­mer cab­i­net col­league and MP Ir­win Cotler, who joined Coderre’s mis­sion to Is­rael.

“It has been an ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble week,” said Pa­trick Be­naroche, co-chair of Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs (CIJA) Que­bec. “The mayor has shown in­cred­i­ble lead­er­ship in terms of his vi­sion and con­vic­tion to stand... against all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion and anti-semitism.”

Paster­nak re­it­er­ated both may­ors’ con­dem­na­tion of the boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment. “By be­ing here we’re mak­ing a strong state­ment that the BDS is re­ally just a smear cam­paign.”

In Toronto, how­ever, Tory took heat for his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s travel ex­penses. Out­spo­ken Toronto Sun colum­nist Sue-ann Levy, in a Nov. 13 ar­ti­cle, ex­pressed in­dig­na­tion at the city’s “soar­ing” travel bud­get.

Call­ing her­self a “com­mit­ted Zion­ist,” Levy ac­cused Tory of be­ing “as po­lit­i­cally cor­rect as pos­si­ble” by vis­it­ing the Gaza Strip. In fact, Tory was not plan­ning to visit Gaza, but Levy’s claim may have re­sulted from her mis­un­der­stand­ing of the lo­ca­tion of Ra­mal­lah, in the West Bank. When cor­rected on Face­book, Levy com­mented that “the fact that they are even go­ing to Ra­mal­lah is be­yond me!”

The one-day West Bank trip in­volved meet­ings with business lead­ers and en­trepreneurs, along with the mayor of Ra­mal­lah and a visit to the Church of the Na­tiv­ity.

Levy also locked horns with Paster­nak over travel costs, which she claimed via Twit­ter on Nov. 14 have “tripled since Tory came to of­fice.” On Face­book, Levy ac­cused Paster­nak of “pan­der­ing for votes” rather than help­ing the Toronto econ­omy.

Paster­nak pointed out that business and com­mu­nity lead­ers had all paid their own way, though the mayor and his staff were funded by the city.

As a business leader, Bio­con­nect’s Dou­glas said there’s no sub­sti­tute for an in-per­son trip. “This will ab­so­lutely con­trib­ute to the suc­cess of the city.” His com­pany has part­nered with Deloitte Con­sult­ing Is­rael to con­nect with ris­ing in­no­va­tors in Is­rael.

“I’ve al­ways be­lieved we need to sell Toronto,” said Dou­glas. “I feel more strongly hav­ing come here.” Dou­glas sees Tory as “very com­mit­ted to business, very pro-in­no­va­tion,” and said Toronto will ben­e­fit from this and other trips abroad. “The city is tak­ing our game to the next level.”

Be­naroche also stressed the eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits to Mon­treal. There were 13 business and in­sti­tu­tion agree­ments signed where Is­raeli com­pa­nies and Cana­dian com­pa­nies are part­ner­ing “largely in cy­ber se­cu­rity and other forms of tech­nol­ogy.”

The may­ors of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva also en­dorsed Coderre’s “Liv­ing To­gether” di­ver­sity ini­tia­tive.

Coderre held meet­ings with Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Ho­tovely, Deputy Min­is­ter Michael Oren and with Boaz Ganor, dean of the In­sti­tute for Counter-ter­ror­ism at IDC Her­zliya. He was also re­ceived by Knes­set Speaker Yuli Edel­stein.

On Nov. 15, Coderre de­liv­ered a key­note ad­dress at the For­eign Min­istry’s an­nual In­ter­na­tional May­ors Con­fer­ence after his meet­ing with Ho­tovely. Tory did not at­tend the may­ors’ con­fer­ence.

John Tory, left and De­nis Coderre at the gravesite of Shi­mon Peres.

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