Senator Jeff Klein is back from the Holy Land. He joined a group of New York State pols on the goodwill trip.
The senator spent 30 hours in Israel that he termed “non-stop,” and had meetings with the country’s prime minster, president, defense minister, as well as the governor of Jerusalem and top commanders of the military.
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres took the group on a tour of “terror tunnels,” Klein said. These are underground tunnels believed to have been dug by the group Hamas, which Klein termed a terrorist organization, and can stretch on for many miles.
There are continued and ongoing conflicts between Israel and the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip.
Klein was one of several key elected officials from New York State, including Governor Cuomo, Senate co-president Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who made the trip. He returned Thursday, August 14.
“I feel that I actually got the true story that once again Israel is not the aggressor, but that Israel is once again on the defensive,” he said of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. “This is something caused by terrorist organizations like Hamas that continues to try to annihilate the state of Israel, firing rockets on an hourly basis sometimes.”
He added: “I think it is important that we as a delegation showed support for the state of Israel, and are able to get the story out there about what is really going on.”
For Klein personally, the trip had great significance, because his grandparents are Holocaust survivors, the senator said in a candid interview.
“This was very important to me from the get go because of my grandparents,” he said. “Needless to say my grandparents spent their lives supporting the state of Israel.”
He said that his grandmother was a Bronx president of the Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and helped build a hospital in Israel.
Klein added that his grandfather was active in United Jewish Appeal, and assisted in raising money and selling bonds for Israel.
It was especially important to show support for Israel because there is a strong bond between New York and Israel, he said, and he pointed out that there are 1.7 million Jews living in New York State.