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An Israeli General Consul is in West Virginia this week visiting lawmakers as well as both Jewish and Christian groups.
Sideman met with members of a Morgantown synagogue yesterday who were not happy with his participation in an event featuring a prominent evangelical Christian politician.
Sideman explained that part of his job is to expand cultural ties between Israel and the US by meeting with community members and encouraging events that promote Israel. To that end he also participate in an event hosted by Christians United for Israel. The keynote speaker at the event was Gary Bauer, one-time presidential candidate and the head of the nonprofit organization American Values . Many members of the Jewish community, however, took issue with the event, telling Sideman the values represented were those of the Christian extreme right.
“Aligning yourself with people like this is the best way to lose the American middle,” warned Jim Friedburg.
Sideman reiterated that the event’s purpose was solely to support the state of Israel. “If it’s anything different than support of Israel, then I will be the first to make public note of that,” he said.
Sideman says his remarks at the Christian event were largely to celebrate the securing of a Jewish homeland:
“I’ll be talking about the state of Israel, about the significance of Israel’s existence, about its achievements, about some of its challenges, about the historical moment in time that we are at that 65 years ago we have reestablished our sovereignty over our ancestral homeland where we were born as a people 4,000 years ago. And we reestablished ourselves in the land that we’ve been dreaming of for 2,000 years. So it’s a historical, unique moment in time that we should all relish and do everything that we can to sustain it for another 2,000 years.”
Sideman says even more than promoting cultural ties in West Virginia, his goal is to expand economic ties.
“This is the first of, I have a feeling many such visits to West Virginia. There are many economic opportunities that I would like to explore between Israel and West Virginia in areas such as energy, biotechnology, chemicals. The chemical industry is very strong in Israel and West Virginia. And I Think there are many opportunities I would like to see if I can promote mutual business between Israel and WV, more so than there is today.”
Sideman’s West Virginia visit continues in Charleston where he’ll be meeting with members of the Jewish community as well as legislative leaders in both the House and Senate.