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CONGRESSIONAL TOUR
ISRAEL 2024

USIEA completed its 8th Congressional tour to Israel from March 28th to April 5th. The nonprofit organization has led members of Congress on advanced education tours to Israel since 2011, and each year USIEA’s Congressional tours lead to greater impact than ever before. 

 

Congressional Tour 2024 faced several logistical challenges as it took place during an American 

presidential election year, a two-front war in Israel that limited access to large swaths of the country, the Muslem month of Ramadan, and the Christian holiday of Easter. USIEA met the challenge head-on and provided the participants – Senator James Lankford, Congressman Randy Weber, Congressman Morgan Griffith, Congressman Brandon Williams, and former Congressman Phil Roe – with a spectacular tour.

USIEA Congressional tours operate by the adage “I heard and I forgot, I saw and I remembered, I did and I understood,” uniquely combining strong cultural, historical, and geopolitical components. The tours are designed to dovetail with our “Lanes of Action,” and the members of Congress return to Washington, D.C. with tangible action items.

Yoav Galant - Minister of Defense

The tour began on Friday with a visit to the Kyria, or Israel’s Pentagon, to meet with Defense Minister Yoav Galant. The minister gave an update on the “Swords of Iron” War, concentrating on the Gazan front. This kicked off USIEA’s first Lane of Action: Support bilateral U.S.-Israel defense collaboration by employing proven cutting-edge Israeli military technology and experience, especially in missile defense, to strengthen U.S. armed forces.

Galant listed Israel’s practical and diplomatic needs for the war, including how crucial it is to fight Hamas with unequivocal support from the United States. He detailed the calculated nature of Hamas’ attacks and their design to cause Israelis to want to leave the land, and ultimately for Israel to cease as a nation. The Minister made it clear that Israel is determined to emerge victorious by eliminating Hamas’ capabilities to rule Gaza and to threaten Israel militarily. He estimated that the war would be won within three months after a thorough invasion of Rafah.

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USIEA Delegation meets with Yoav Galant 

The Horror and The Truth: Visiting the Gaza Border

On Saturday, the delegation traveled to Israel’s southern border with Gaza to the scene of the October 7th massacre. Traveling to the Gaza border was surreal, powerful, difficult, and necessary.

Moshav Dekel

In this Moshav, a close-knit Israeli village, the members met with locals who were on the second line of defense on October 7th. Moshav Dekel is located one mile from the Egyptian border and one mile from the Gazan border, and artillery fire from Gaza could be heard over lunch. The delegation met with locals who have been displaced from the Moshav. They shared about the horrors of October 7th and the difficult decision that many Israelis are facing as to whether they should move back home.

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Survivors from October 7th attack in Moshav Dekel

Nir Oz

After visiting Moshav Dekel, the delegation traveled 15 minutes down the road to kibbutz Nir Oz. A kibbutz is a town in Israel that is traditionally based on agriculture and communal living. Nir Oz, located on the frontline of the October 7th attack, is half a mile from Gaza and had the largest population per capita massacred or taken hostage.

The members saw the depth of destruction and how calculated the plans of the Hamas attacks were. In fact, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) found Hamas maps left behind indicating which Israeli homes to destroy and which community members to murder. 

 

USIEA provided a platform for the hostages’ families to speak. Every person has a unique testimony of that day, and they are all important to hear, especially for our United States Congress. These Members showed excellent care for these families as they spent quality moments listening and comforting those who have not been heard. The hostage families left encouraged after speaking with leaders who have the ability to affect change.

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Delegation meets with hostage families

Nova Festival Site

The group finished the day visiting the Nova Festival Site. This location is now a public mourning spot with memorials for those killed at the festival on October 7th. The sound of artillery fire in Gaza could still be heard overhead as the members walked through the memorial.

A 20 year old Nova festival survivor shared her testimony from hiding in a bomb shelter for five and a half hours on October 7th. Hamas launched grenades, gunfire, and gas bombs into the shelter where she was hiding. Only 10 out of 40 people survived. She recalled the memories of being in a tight, crowded space, trembling and scared for her life. The survivor shared this thought that will stick with the delegation forever:

“If you are a Jew and in a dark tight space with gas, then you know you are being holocausted…” 

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Nova Festival Memorial Site

Exclusive Findings in the City of David 

Sunday was spent at the City of David, where King David’s palace stood nearly three thousand years ago. The delegation toured exclusive excavations closed to the general public, including an underground jail that likely held the Prophet Jeremiah, the Pilgrim’s Road to the Temple Mount, and the newly discovered Pool of Siloam. Visiting the City of David – the cradle of the Judeo-Christian faith – legitimizes Israel’s historical right to the land. The day ended with a trip to the Western Wall and a meeting with the Chief Rabbi’s office.

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Rep. randy weber in the tunnels of the city of david 

Friendshoring U.S. Life Sciences Supply Chain to the Middle East

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Dror Bin Israel

One of USIEA’s unique strengths is the ability to connect members of Congress with Israeli leaders and experts across all industries. 

On Monday, USIEA’s friendshoring Lane of Action was addressed: Nearshoring, or “friendshoring,” aspects of the U.S. Life Sciences supply chain to Israel and the Abraham Accords countries (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco) in order to create a staging ground in the Middle East for the U.S. Life Sciences offshore supply chain, shifting our over dependence away from China and diversifying our offshore supply. 

The delegation was briefed by Brigadier General (Res) Asaf Orion from the prestigious Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Israel’s largest think-tank. Orion spoke about Israel’s economic and political relationships with the U.S. and China.

 

This was followed by a briefing from Dror Bin, the CEO of Israel’s Innovation Authority. Bin highlighted Israel’s designation of bioconvergence as the next significant growth engine. Bioconvergence is the intersection of software and engineering, specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biotechnology. Israel is poised to become a world leader in bioconvergence, and the road is open for American collaboration.

Assaf Orion presents to members of congress
Dror Bin presents to members of congress

Artificial Intelligence x Israeli Startups

Bioconvergence segues into another USIEA Lane of Action: Bolster the United States’ global leadership in artificial in AI through expanding joint American-Israeli AI research in academia and the private sector, especially as it pertains to Life Sciences. 

Bin’s lecture was followed by rapid-fire presentations from CEOs of Israeli Life Science startups – BrainQ, Biolojic, and Biolight – emphasizing the potential for a local office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Abraham Accords region.

 

A local office would secure innovative products for the American consumer as quickly and efficiently as possible, as well as ensure our national security interests and build on foreign policy initiatives. The three briefings were staged to showcase the problem, the opportunity, and the concrete examples of how the U.S. Congress can lead on this front.

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artifical intelligence brieifing 

Ron Dermer - Minister of Strategic Affairs

The delegation then met with the Minister of Strategic Affairs, Ron Dermer, who stepped in for the Prime Minister, who was in the hospital for emergency surgery. Dermer provided the most in-depth briefing on the war by the numbers and the ongoing diplomatic negotiations. 

Dermer shared with the Delegation, “I am more optimistic about the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace than I have been in 30 years.” This is a once in a generation opportunity to advance peace after this war.

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briefing with ron dermer
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bassam eid gives briefing in Jerusalem

Problem with UNRWA

The day ended with a briefing by Bassam Eid, a Palestinian activist from Jericho, who spoke about the corruption of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) and their perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee crisis. Bassam grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, and he discussed his hard fought battle out of the camp to create a life of his own. Bassam’s introduced another USIEA lane of action:  Reform the Palestinian education system through innovative, new approaches to lay the groundwork for peaceful coexistence.

Knesset Celebration of Abraham Accords 

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usiea delegation at the knesset 
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usiea delegation with Amir Ohana, Speaker of the Knesset

Aryeh Lightstone, Executive Director of the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, invited the USIEA delegation to a special session of the Knesset commemorating the Abraham Accords. The delegation met with Amir Ohana, Speaker of the Knesset, and two members of the USIEA delegation were invited to speak at the forum: Senator James Lankford, Co-Chair of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus, and Representative Randy Weber, Co-Chair of the House Antisemitism Caucus. 

Rep. Weber announced to the Knesset that the House of Representatives had introduced the United States-Abraham Accords Cooperation and Security Act of 2024 (H.R. 7155) in January, which calls for the establishment of a U.S. FDA Bureau in the Abraham Accords region. Rep. Weber is a co-sponsor on this legislation, which was a direct outcome of USIEA’s 2023 Congressional tour. By recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of the Abraham Accords and the legislation, leaders in the U.S. and Israel can optimistically look toward the future and building strong relationships with these Arab countries.

The West Bank

From the Knesset, USIEA took the delegation to Samaria. USIEA is the only organization that takes members of Congress on organized tours of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), one of the most contested lands in the world.

The delegation was greeted in Samaria by the newly elected mayor of Ariel, Yair Chetboun. In addition, Avi Zimmerman – a longtime resident of Ariel, USIEA Senior Fellow, and CEO at Sector4 Strategy LTD – briefed the group. Their discussions concerned the local security situation and relations between the Israeli and Palestinian populations in the shadows of war.

 

This was followed by a tour of Ariel, including Ariel University and their new Medical School, and concluded with a visit to ancient Shiloh, home of the Tabernacle for 369 years. The West Bank education highlighted yet another USIEA lane of action:

Eliminate discrimination on funding for binational science foundations operating in the Israeli controlled territories in the West Bank. Scientific funding should not be politicized, and institutions should not be discriminated against merely based on location.

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avi zimmerman briefing the members 
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Tour of Ancient Shiloh

Israel’s Northern Border

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major (res) ilan shulman briefs in the golan heights
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Israel and Syrian Border

The last two days of the tour took place in the north of the country, less than 20 miles from the border where Israel and Hezbollah have engaged in low-intensity warfare since October 8. 

The stage was set by Avichai Stern, mayor of Qiryat Shemona. Qiryat Shemona is the capital of the Upper Galilee. In a city of 24,000, only 4,000 people remain after most have been evacuated from their homes due to the threat of Hezbollah rocket fire and anti-tank guided missiles. He spoke about his discussions with army officials and the minimal security arrangements inhibiting the return of the evacuees. It is estimated that 70% of those displaced from northern communities will never return home. A truly devastating number.

In his opinion, there is no recourse but to push Hezbollah north of the Litani River, as mandated by UN Resolution 1701, most likely through military force. 

The group completed the journey up to the Golan Heights, approximately a mile from the Syrian border where Hezbollah terrorists have fired missiles into Israel. The members of Congress received an extensive briefing from intelligence expert Major (Res) Ilan Shulman on the security situation in Syria, how it affects Israel, and where America can best concentrate its resources. The delegation finished their fact-finding mission with a visit to the ALMA Research and Education Center, where Lieutenant Colonel (Res) Sarit Zahavi tied in the threats from Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon, displaying how all roads lead to Iran.

Immediate Impact 

In one week, the Delegation went from problem to opportunity to implementation. USIEA will continue to follow up with the members of Congress from this tour, as well as preceding tours, by educating and assisting with pertinent research. It is invaluable to get “boots on the ground,” to travel from the southern region to the most northern border, and to fully comprehend the threat against Israel on all sides and from within. These members are now equipped with the knowledge to spearhead key initiatives to bolster the U.S.-Israel collaboration in this paramount time in history. 

Four days following the USIEA Congressional tour to Israel, Senator Lankford introduced a resolution in the Senate to support Israel’s right to self-defense. It is encouraging to see these members already taking action in support of Israel during this difficult time. 

 

We anticipate the lasting positive changes that will result from this Congressional Tour, and our team will continue to educate these members to help foster a strong U.S.-Israel collaboration.
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BUILDING THE FUTURE

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We cannot do this work without supporters like you. Would you consider making a donation help our work in strengthening the U.S-Israel collaboration? This is the time like no other to take action in supporting the nation of Israel. 

In conjunction with the educational efforts of USIEA, members of Congress have identified the following Lanes of Action to support the U.S.-Israel relationship:
  1. Bolster the United States’ global leadership in Artificial Intelligence (AI) through expanding joint American-Israeli AI research in academia and the private sector, especially as it pertains to Life Sciences.

  2. Eliminate discrimination on funding for binational science foundations operating in the Israeli controlled territories in the West Bank. Scientific funding should not be politicized, and institutions should not be discriminated against merely based on location.

  3. Replace the Palestinian education system through innovative, new approaches to lay the groundwork for peaceful coexistence.

  4. Nearshore, or “friendshore,” aspects of the U.S. Life Sciences supply chain to Israel and the Abraham Accords countries in order to create a staging ground in the Middle East for the U.S. Life Sciences offshore supply chain, shifting our over dependence away from China and diversifying our offshore supply.

  5. Support bilateral U.S.-Israel defense collaboration by employing proven cutting-edge Israeli military technology and experience, especially in missile defense, to strengthen U.S. armed forces.

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