New York officials showed their support and admiration for Israel during a visit here this week — and many Israelis offered similar sentiments for New York.
“The people of Jerusalem and the people of New York City are shoulder-to-shoulder, and the people of America and the people of Israel are shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against terrorism,” New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Sunday during the one-day visit.
New York’s mayor-elect, Michael Bloomberg, and New York state Gov. George Pataki accompanied Giuliani on the visit.
The officials came to Jerusalem after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the wreckage of New York’s World Trade Center on Nov. 30.
“We love New York,” shouted Jerusalem residents, as the three politicians and other New York dignitaries walked the streets of Jerusalem to show their support for the beleaguered city.
The officials began their visit at the Western Wall, where they were greeted with the blowing of a shofar.
They then made their way through the Western Wall tunnels, a labyrinth of arches and passageways discovered after the 1967 Six-Day War.
The group — which met with Israeli officials and participated in a candle-lighting ceremony for Chanukah — also included Mortimer Zuckerman, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Giuliani’s girlfriend, Judith Nathan; Bloomberg’s daughter, Emma; and several other New York rabbis and officials.
Also making the visit was John Ruskay, executive vice president of UJA-Federation of Greater New York.
“This group of elected officials wanted to offer support to the people of the state of Israel as they resist horrendous violence and pursue peace,” Ruskay said.
The three elected officials wore yarmulkes while at the Western Wall.
Giuliani had his own black crocheted skullcap, which he donned while stepping out onto the Western Wall Plaza.
On the men’s side of the Wall, a small crowd surrounded the visiting officials, while a small scattering of men continued their prayers on the bright, sunny Sunday morning.
The entourage made its way toward downtown Jerusalem, stopping first at Sbarro’s, the branch of the American pizza chain that was the scene of an August suicide bombing that killed 15 and wounded more than 130.
The pizzeria reopened Sept. 12.
Pataki flashed a thumbs-up sign toward Israelis lining the street as the triumvirate of officials made their way down Jaffa Road.
One of the main thoroughfares in Jerusalem, Jaffa Road was renamed New York Street by the municipality following the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
“It’s great to be here,” Pataki told a crowd of reporters. “We have a great feeling of solidarity with Jerusalem. New York has the largest population of Jews outside Israel, and we want to support that connection.”
Thomas Von Essen, the commissioner of New York’s fire department, wearing his navy blue FDNY windbreaker, added: “I can’t think of a better way to support the people of Israel. They understand the kind of thing we’ve been through.”
The morning in downtown Jerusalem ended with the officials planting two trees — one oak, one maple — in memory of the 11 Israeli teen-agers who died in a double suicide bombing Dec. 1 at Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall.
The trip was initiated by all three officials, but the cheers were all for Giuliani, who was recognized by the locals.
“Giul-Giul-Giuliani,” yelled several teen-aged boys following the entourage. “Go New York!”
“He is pro-humanity,” said Roby Shmerling, an Australian native who happened to be downtown Sunday morning. “That’s rare for a politician, but Giuliani means it. He didn’t have to come here. It’s not like he doesn’t have enough to do in New York.”
Giuliani lit the first Chanukah candle in Jerusalem’s Zion Square on Sunday evening. Thousands of people crowded into the square to watch the ceremony.
The candlelighting took place near the site where two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up Dec. 1, killing 11 people and wounding at least 188 people.
“For 2,000 years, our enemies have tried to prevent us from performing this ritual, but they have failed,” Sharon said at the ceremony.
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.