Governor Mike Huckabee and Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce Mission to Israel


Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce Mission to Israel Reverberates Through the Halls of Power

By: Shimmy Blum


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At the turn of the secular new year, the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce launched its first ever “U.S.-Israel Business Alliance” mission to Israel, aimed at strengthening the U.S.-Israel economic and diplomatic relationships, and fighting the BDS movement, UN anti-Semitism and other threats to Israel and the Jewish business world. The mission was led by the Jewish Chamber’s Executive Public Policy Committee – Dr. Joseph Frager, Dr. Paul Brody, Odeleya Jacobs and Duvi Honig – and its special guest, former Arkansas governor and two-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Governor Huckabee is a leading supporter of Israel and strong pro-Israel voice in the media. He first visited Israel in 1973, at age 17, and has returned approximately one hundred times since.

On Tuesday morning, January 3rd, a diverse dozen Knesset members gathered in the Knesset’s Jerusalem Hall for a special two hour-plus “U.S.-Israel Business Alliance” symposium. You could hear a pin drop in the room throughout the symposium. The sensitivity of the times was felt in the air. We were mere days after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, and just over two weeks away from when Donald Trump will be inaugurated as president of the U.S., which is expected to significantly affect U.S. policy towards Israel.

Speaker after speaker thanked Governor Huckabee and the entire Jewish Chamber delegation for displaying unapologetic U.S. support for Israel at this crucial juncture. The nickname “Huckabee the Maccabbee” was an instant favorite in the room. The fact that Governor Huckabee has a particularly close relationship with incoming President Trump was particularly heartening.

Dr. Frager, a longtime pro-Israel activist, had strong words for the recent actions of the U.N. and Obama administration, calling the resolution a “mockery and travesty” and a “shot in the arm for the BDS movement.” He heralded the strength of this mission, boosted by Governor Huckabee and dozens of other participants. “Let’s hope this sets the tone for the next eight years of the Trump administration.”

Reb Duvi Honig noted the Jewish Chamber’s particular motivation to utilize its global network of Jewish community businesses and business leaders to fight BDS and other efforts to harm the Israeli economy. “An eye for an eye,” he stated with visible passion. “We’ll use our strength to fight you all.”

Reb Duvi added the importance for Israel and the Jewish people to respect Shabbos and other Torah traditions and laws, in order to be able to expect the world to respect our historical biblical connection to the land. He also highlighted the strong personal connection that the Jewish Chamber maintains with top aides to President Elect Trump, particularly Jason Dov Greenblatt Esq., and Israel Ambassador designate David Friedman.

Dr. Brody kept his remarks short, heralding Governor Huckabee’s longstanding friendship with Israel, and concluded by raising the Israeli flag and proclaiming “Am Yisrael Chai!”  Starting her remarks with the words “Hodu l’Hashem ki tov,” Odeleya Jacobs, who invested countless hours to arrange the symposium, noted the importance of the mission and its message to the world. “The Jewish people are indigenous to this land,” she exclaimed. “No power can go against God.”

Though the only non-Jew in the room, Governor Huckabee harped on his strong religious faith and how it shapes his view of Israel. “When I first came here, Israel was struggling to live off kibbutzim, but is now one of the most entrepreneurial nations in the history of mankind; and won many wars it shouldn’t have (by conventional measure),” the governor explained. “There is no explanation for this other than God’s unique personal involvement.”

The governor reiterated his belief that Israel has rightful sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and warned that abandoning portions of land won’t satiate Israel haters. “The world doesn’t hate you because of where you are, but because of who you are and whose you are,” he exclaimed.

Build Israel Great Again: Maale Adumim Looks Forward to End of Freeze

For over seven years, Maale Adumim, the sprawling city of 41,000 residents saw development completely frozen after outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel cannot add “one more brick” to the community, which is just over the Green Line. In clear defiance of this edict, Mayor Casriel, Governor Huckabee and the Jewish Chamber delegation made their way to the outskirts of the city with a bird’s eye view of both Maale Adumim and the vast surrounding Judean hills. The stage was emblazoned with a red banner with the words “Build Israel Great Again,” a play on the famous “Make America Great Again” slogan of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump. Red and white “Build Israel Great Again” caps were distributed to Governor Huckabee and mission participants, who were all too eager to wear them.

The group was there to, no less, lay the marker for a new Maale Adumim neighborhood to be built, which would meet the pent-up demand due to natural growth and the need for affordable housing in the Yerushalayim region. Governor Huckabee, a close friend and ally of President Elect Trump, said that he expects the Trump administration policy towards Israel and residence in Judea and Samaria to be “dramatically different” than the Obama administration’s hostile posture. Mayor Casriel, Governor Huckabee and the Jewish Chamber delegation then planted an olive tree in the new neighborhood and placed a vessel with the founding document of the new neighborhood in the ground.

Visiting the Iriyah

On Wednesday morning, following a press conference with Israeli and international media at the King David Hotel, Governor Huckabee and other mission participants took part in a roundtable forum at Yerushalayim Municipal Hall with Mayor Nir Barkat.  

Mayor Barkat detailed the difficulties that he encountered during his tenure, as the Obama administration put immense pressure that the municipality stop Jewish construction in various parts of the city while also pressuring them not to demolish illegal Arab homes.

Members of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce articulated their dedication to promote economic activity between the U.S. and Israel. Reb Duvi Honig also made an impassioned plea to the mayor not to change the Orthodox status quo at the Kosel Hamaaravi, warning that a commitment to democracy should never supersede fealty to our common religious obligations. He pointed to the recent anti-Israel UN resolution as a harbinger of what can happen when Jews dismiss their religious tradition. “If we don’t respect our traditions, how can we expect the world to respect our historical roots in Eretz Yisroel?,” Reb Duvi asked.

Naftali Bennett Listens – and Makes a Move on Behalf of Torah and Shabbos

Governor Mike Huckabee, Dr. Joseph Frager and Duvi Honig paid a visit to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Habayit HaYehudi party. They discussed various pertinent issues, such as strengthening U.S.-Israel economic ties and fighting the BDS movement.

Reb Duvi reiterated the message a he delivered at the Knesset and Yerushalayim municipal hall, urging Mr. Bennett to respect Torah traditions in matters of education, Shabbos and more. In a remarkable development, that very day, HaBayit HaYehudi officially joined the charedi parties in support of maintaining the religious status quo regarding the closure of Israeli businesses on Shabbos.

Habayit HaYehudi previously did not align with the charedim in this battle. This significant change was announced via an official letter from MK Bezalel Smotrich to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Smotrich was among the MKs who attended and addressed the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce’s Knesset symposium the previous day, when Reb Duvi Honig made his emotional plea on behalf of maintaining Torah true Yiddishkeit. “When I heard of the letter, I thanked Hashem,” Reb Duvi explained. “It’s an amazing zechus to have had a part in this.

Mission Wraps Up at VIP Business Networking Dinner

The event hall at the prestigious King David Hotel in Yerushalayim was upbeat on Wednesday evening, as approximately one hundred business leaders, elected officials and community leaders gathered for a VIP business networking dinner wrapping up the U.S.-Israel Business Alliance mission. Duvi Honig commenced the event, marveling at the many high level guests in attendance, including several who traveled from the U.S. for the dinner alone. “We think big,” he exclaimed. “We are uniting Jewish community businesses at a global level.”

The dinner epitomized the goal of the Jewish Chamber and this mission to Israel, which is focusing on networking Jewish communal and economic powerhouses to advance economic success within the U.S. and Israel, and between the two countries. The speakers list included Michael Eisenberg of Aleph Venture Capital; Knesset members Zeev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs; Eli Ben-Dahan, Deputy Defense Minister; Oren Chazzan; Miki Zohar and Bezalel Smotrich; Consul General in New York Danny Dayan; and Efrat Mayor Oded Ravivi.

Dr. Frager was clearly moved by the vibrancy of the mission and its success, noting that the dinner also heralded the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the reunification of Yerushalayim. Audience members rose to applaud Dr. Frager when he spoke of making “the Jewish people a greater people; Israel a greater Israel; build Judea and Samaria into a greater Judea and Samaria and build Yerushalayim to be the greatest city on earth.”

Odeleya Jacobs hit at the core of the mission, stressing the importance of the Jewish Chamber goal to help Jewish businesses thrive across the globe. “We need to teach people how to fish, rather than just give them fish,” she explained.

Governor Huckabee recounted with his trademark oratory skills the story of a father who took his eleven year old daughter on a tour of Yad Vashem for the first time. After they walked through exhibits of the horrific events prior to and during the Holocaust, particularly what was done to Jewish children, the girl simply wrote in the museum guestbook, “Why didn’t somebody do something?”

The governor then shared that this occurred with him and his daughter Sarah. He was proud of his young daughter’s insight and how she internalized the Holocaust’s most important lesson for future generations. Sarah Huckabee is now a senior aide to President Elect Trump and will serve in his administration. Her father expressed confidence that she will be a forceful advocate against evil, particularly those that seek to harm Israel and the Jewish people.

Governor Huckabee derided the two-state solution as “diplomatic fantasy” and confirmed the sense in the room that the incoming president will be a strong ally for Israel. “The partnership between the United States and Israel are deeper than political and economic,” he summed up. “It is based on the values of what it means to be a human being.”



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