District 6 Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley spoke with Patch.com about his recent trip to Israel in mid-December.
Patch: Why did you go to Israel?
O'Malley: I was invited to go with Jewish Community Relations Council with 12 or 13 elected officials from around the state. It was an educational trip to share best practices, meet with our colleagues in government in different Israeli and Palestine governments. We met with the Prime Minister of Palestine (Salam Fayyad) and the mayor of Bethlehem (of the Palestine side). We met with Israeli city senators in Haifa.
Patch: What did you do in Israel?
O'Malley: It was an incredible trip. We met with many government officials, members of military, professors, and saw historical sites during out time in Bethleham. We saw the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, visited some of the beautiful natural resources like the Dead Sea and different parks.
We had a very interesting meeting with a venture capitalist in Palestine. With a company formed by an Palestine Muslim and an Israeli Jew and they're building the technological structure to do an expedia.com for the Middle East. And we heard about the challenges they face. They both studied in America and moved back.
Patch: What was the goal of the trip?
O'Malley: The goal was to build relationships and get a better understanding of the Middle Eastern conflict. We learned about historical struggles and conflicts in the Middle East.
Patch: What were the highlights for you?
O'Malley: Just the history. To be in Bethlehem a week before Christmas, and to see where Jesus was born, and walk his final route and the Stations of the Cross was emotional and spiritual. It meant so much to have that opportunity. To meet with those other government officials, the academics. I feel like I have a better understanding of the Middle Eastern conflict, yet more confused because it’s so complex and such a layered conflict. I feel like I understand more about what we need to do to attain a two-state peaceful solution.
Patch: What did you think of the Dead Sea?
O'Malley: It was terrific. To be able to float in the water where it’s impossible to swim or stand up. To be steps away from Masada a 3000-year-old palace - the mosaic tiles are still intact.
Patch: How safe did you feel compared to being in the USA?
O'Malley: To be honest, I felt safe, there were moments where my heart raced a little bit faster. When you’re coming from Palestine into Israel and armed guards with AK-47s board your bus to check your passport. And to hear an errant gunshot when walking the old streets of Jerusaelm... Overall we felt safe. It was just an incredible experience.
Patch: Did you see lots of redheads?
O'Malley: I did not see a lot of redheads.