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Mayors from Abroad Come to Jerusalem to See How One City Handles Problems

March 31, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

With the words “Please continue to eat. I can shout above you all,” Teddy Kollek welcome 40 mayors Sunday night to the 12th Jerusalem Conference of Mayors, which kicked off with a buffet dinner.

With a laugh and a nod to the Jerusalem mayor, the participants, who hail from 23 nations, continued their meal. As one put it, “Tonight we’ll eat; tomorrow we’ll get down to business.”

The business that has brought these officials to Israel for a week of seminars, discussions and sightseeing is the opportunity to exchange ideas and information with their counterparts from other cities.

The conference, sponsored by the American Jewish Congress, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Hanns-Seidel Foundation and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, ends Saturday.

“For us this is an important event,” Kollek told the gathering, which included local political and religious dignitaries.

With typical understatement, he added, “We will try to show you the problems of a very mixed society and how we have solved a small problem or two, here and there.”

In a working session with the mayors at City Hall on Monday, Kollek pointed out the differences that exist among the city’s diverse ethnic groups and the ways he and other city officials have tried to bridge the gap.

“First of all, we don’t want to take away from the cultural autonomy of various groups,” he said. “The Armenians have lived in Jerusalem for 1,500 years, and we have no intention of turning them into Israelis.

“There are Jews from Yemen, Kurdistan, Morocco,” he said. “People are encouraged to keep the traditions they brought with them.”


Mayor Barbara Krantz Crews of Galveston, Texas, said that “Kollek’s experiences ring true with me. I live in a city with many different cultures: one-third black, one-third Hispanic, one-third white. We must learn to live together.”

Crews, visiting Israel for the second time, is one of four Jewish mayors at the conference.

Jimmy Kemp, the mayor of Meridian, Miss., also took Kollek’s words to heart. In the past, Meridian has had its share of violence between black and white residents. But today, he said, “we have found a way to get along.

“In fact, the Jewish community was instrumental in introducing integration to our schools and institutions,” said Kemp. “I think we’ve realized that we’re all in the same boat, and we have to paddle it together if we want to get the job done.”

Kemp, who calls himself “a good Southern Baptist,” said that visiting Israel has been a longtime dream. “We all understand the plight of Israel, and what the Israelis have done and are trying to do,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to see it all and to be around the folks.”

Ernest Mzandu, the mayor of Lilongwe, Malawi, said, “Since our independence in 1964, Malawi and Israel have been friends, even when other African countries broke ties with Israel. Being a developing country, I hope to learn from my interaction with other mayors about how they manage their cities and solve their problems.”

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