New York Mayor David Dinkins ended his 24-hour goodwill visit to Israel on Monday saying, “We learned that people can be united, despite differences of color and language.”
His remark came after he met with a group of immigrants from Ethiopia and the Soviet Union at the Mevasseret Zion absorption center near Jerusalem. During his visit, he was a guest of an immigrant family that arrived three weeks ago.
Shortly before leaving the country with his traveling partner, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the mayor said the world is now clearly aware of the danger Israel faces.
“The moment we stepped off our airplane, we were handed gas masks and were told how to use them. We learned a lesson in patience and endurance,” he declared.
Dinkins, the first black mayor of New York, was criticized by elements of the black community for going to Israel. They contended he was pandering to the Jewish community while neglecting his black constituency.
But Dinkins brushed that aside. He said the vast majority of Americans, including African Americans, understand that Israel has exercised tremendous restraint. The dissenting voices come from a small but vocal minority, he said.
Dinkins met with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and visited a Patriot anti-missile battery to speak to the soldiers operating it.
“We are proud to see you. You conduct an important mission, especially in light of Israel’s restraint. You must feel great getting up in the morning with the important mission you are conducting,” he said.
The mayor of New York was not the only visiting head of a foreign city. Two German mayors whose cities have sister relationships with Tel Aviv arrived on goodwill visits Sunday.
Hans Daniels of Bonn and Norbert Burger of Cologne brought to Tel Aviv the very practical gift of five tons of adhesive tape used to seal rooms against poison gas attack.
The mayors pledged nearly $700,000 in emergency aid to help meet the costs of repairing Iraqi missile damage in Tel Aviv.
And back in Germany, about 100 pro-Israel students demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in Bonn carrying banners supporting the U.S. coalition forces fighting Iraq.
But thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in several major cities to protest the war in the Gulf.
(JTA correspondent David Kantor in Bonn contributed to this report.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.