The fast-tracked opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem brought out the top names from the White House: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner, among others. On the week preceding the historic event, Queens activist Dr. Joseph Frager led his own mission to Israel, which included Republican Senate candidate Chele Farley. “It was really incredible. I took people to Israel who haven’t been there before,” said Frager. “Hamas terror tunnels, Yad Vashem, and Kidmat Zion.” The last one is a recent Jewish development in eastern Jerusalem overlooking the Old City.
While Farley toured Israel, President Donald Trump announced his government’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, a decision praised by Farley. “It was important for me to see for myself the dangers that Iran poses to Israel,” she said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “The deal effectively gives Iran nuclear weapons in eight years, which will threaten Israel as well as New York. I believed before that voting for the deal was a mistake, and now, after coming to Israel, I am convinced that it’s true.”
Although Farley is at a disadvantage in party registration and campaign funds against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, she has so far raised more money to run than Gillibrand’s previous opponents and believes that anger over Gillibrand’s lean to the political left will translate to votes for Farley. “I don’t think she’s pro-Israel,” said Farley, citing her opponent’s support for the Iran deal and opposition to the Taylor Force Act, and her withdrawal from a Senate anti-boycott bill. “As the state with the largest Jewish population, New York deserves a pro-Israel senator.”
The first-time candidate met with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Science and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis, five Knesset Members, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair. “We had difficulty reaching our hotel as there was a bike race on that day,” said Frager. “Jerusalem is a cosmopolitan place.”
Along with established historical sites, Frager’s group also visited properties developed by Ateret Cohanim, the yeshivah that seeks to increase the Jewish presence in the half of Jerusalem that was captured by Israel in 1967. “We visited its buildings in the Muslim Quarter, including one where Mark Twain and Ulysses Grant stayed and where Teddy Roosevelt visited,” said Frager. That site is Beit Wittenberg, which was Jewish-owned from the 1880s until the 1929 riots. Ateret Cohanim recently discovered that this was the Mediterranean Hotel where famous American visitors stayed, including the former 18th president [Grant]and the future 26th president [Roosevelt].
Frager and Farley also visited Kidmat Zion, a fledgling project of eight families (so far) which, along with Beit Orot, Maaleh Zeitim, provide a living Jewish presence around the historic Har HaZeitim cemetery, and push the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem farther east as a safeguard against a proposed division of the city. “Ateret Cohanim is leading the effort in Jerusalem,” said Frager.
Although he could not stay for the opening due to his work schedule and the birth of a grandchild, he was happy for those who were present for the opening, including his friend Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and father of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Frager could not confirm if Farley or Huckabee will be attending the Israel Day Concert with a Message on Sunday, June 3, in Central Park. Huckabee had spoken at this concert in the past, while Farley would be welcomed by its organizers as the reliable pro-Israel alternative to Gillibrand. As Farley noted during her Israel trip last week, “As the state with the largest Jewish population, New York deserves a pro-Israel senator.”
By Sergey Kadinsky