Sep. 2—Two Cobb County lawmakers were part of a bipartisan delegation of state legislators that visited Israel in mid-August.
State Rep. Mitchell Kaye, R-east Cobb, and state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, made the trip along with seven other officials and their families, arriving in Tel Aviv on Aug. 15.
"The purpose of the trip was to strengthen the Georgia-Israel bonds of friendship, to enhance economic opportunities on both sides, as well as to give the group a firsthand experience in the Holy Land with its many dimensions," Kaye, who is Jewish and organized the trip, told the MDJ.
During the trip, which lasted until Aug. 23, the delegation met with retired Maj. Gen. Alon Levavi, visiting Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and hearing about the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange from Israel's point of view. Cobb Sheriff Craig Owens traveled to Israel in early July as part of the exchange.
Kaye said there are numerous aspects that make the relationship between the state of Georgia and Israel beneficial for both.
"Economic cooperation is strong and growing," Kaye said. "An exchange of ideas in the high tech, agriculture, security and political areas, to name a few, are areas where we all benefit."
Kaye also said Delta Air Lines' decision to begin offering nonstop flights from Atlanta to Tel Aviv in March "should only enhance the relationship."
Kirkpatrick serves on the newly formed Georgia-Israel Legislative Caucus with Kaye and as a legislative liaison to the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust.
The senator said the legislators paid their own way for the trip.
"What was amazing about it was, in addition to obviously learning more about an amazing country, we got an opportunity to be educated on the economic situation, the trade relations between Georgia and Israel, the political situation, so we really got an inside look at the country," Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick said highlights included meetings with Bahrain's first ambassador to Israel and an in-depth look at efforts to irrigate the Negev, a desert covering much of the country.
"What really blew me away was going to the desert and seeing what Israel has been able to do to make their desert bloom," Kirkpatrick said. "Their desalination technology has essentially solved their water problem, and because we have water problems in the United States as well, I thought that was really important."
Kaye has been to Israel more than a dozen times and has numerous relatives there.
"Seeing the vibrant economy and building boom and new archeological discoveries are always amazing, but the highlight for me was the bonding and new friendships made among our bi-partisan group of nine diverse politicians along with family members (17 in total)," Kaye said. "That is something I will always cherish."