Nassau County cemented its relationship with Israel last week, signing an economic and cultural agreement with the Shomron, an area in the northern part of the territory commonly referred to as the West Bank or Judea and Samaria.
“This is an agreement of friendship, understanding and solidarity,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman proclaimed during a ceremony in the executive and legislative building in Mineola.
Blakeman’s Israeli counterpart, Shomron Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan, said his region has been the Jewish heartland since the days of the religion’s forefathers and prophets.
Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip of Great Neck, a former Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper who emigrated to the Jewish state from Ethiopia during Operation Solomon in 1991, said the agreement would “continue an important and meaningful partnership and friendship based on social, economic, security and cultural” links.
“This event perfectly exemplifies the beautiful relationship between Israel and America,” said New York State’s newest assemblyman, Ari Brown of Cedarhurst. At a time “when people are trying to put a wedge between us, the county executive brings us together.”
“We feel your huge hug,” said Davidi Ben Zion, deputy head of the Samaria Regional Council.
“These are not easy days in Israel because of the attacks and the terrorist campaigns,” Ben Zion said. “And sometimes for you it is not easy days. But if we move together, we can win.”
Dov Hikind, the firebrand former assemblyman from Boro Park, applauded Blakeman’s leadership in joining with Israel.
“We are united with the people of Israel and we are united with the communities — not ‘settlements’ — in Judea and Samaria. These are magnificent cities with the most special people.”
“To say ‘I support Israel’ is very nice and is a good start. But this is called action, this is called doing something real. You are saying to over half a million people in Judea and Samaria,’ you are not alone’ — we the people of Long Island, of America, we are with you.”
Judea and Samaria is a subject of international controversy, with some referring to it as occupied territory where development by Israel violates international law; others maintain that Israel is acting legally.
Blakemen, who’s visited the Shomron, described the area as critically situated in relation to the rest of the country.
“It’s the high ground overlooking the Tel Aviv airport. To give away that strategic area would put all of Israel in danger,” he said, citing his expertise in homeland security management.
Meanwhile, he said, Israeli development there boosts everyone.
“What you won’t hear in the media is how many Palestinian Arabs are employed in Judea and Samaria in the factories, earning three times what they would if they were in the Palestinian Authority areas,” Blakeman said, explaining that Israelis “are providing a lot of economic opportunity for their Palestinian neighbors as well as for Israelis.”
While Judea was not represented at Thursday’s event, Blakeman emphasized that he supports them as well.
The county executive, whose wife is Israeli, highlighted his latest personal link to the Jewish State. He introduced his daughter, Ariel, who was student at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, and said that she had recently announced her engagement to a former IDF paratrooper.
In 2016, the Town of Hempstead proclaimed the Region of Shomron a “sister municipality.” Blakeman, a Hempstead councilman at the time, said then that “they are truly on the front lines.”