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A Southern Israeli Advocate

In 1943, Alabama was the first state in America to officially call for the establishment of the Jewish state and homeland. And in 1998, they were the first to call upon the nations of the world to recognize united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, and to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem. This action followed an historic trade agreement between the two states led by a non-Jewish governor who insisted “Hatikvah” be played at his inauguration. As a member of the official delegation, I am pleased to provide a personal account of how the historic trip unfolded.

The United States was the first country to recognize Israel as a state in 1948, and the first to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017. Israel is a great partner to the United States and has no greater friend. The US-Israel economic and commercial relationship is also strong, anchored by bilateral trade of close to $50 billion in goods and services annually.

One of the states that offers strong support and enjoys beneficial economic ties to the Jewish State is the southern state of Alabama. Alabama has a long history of support for Israel. In 1943, Alabama led the nation as the first state in America to officially call for the establishment of the Jewish state and homeland. The unanimous joint resolution passed both state houses five years before Israel was reborn as a nation, urging both the United States and the United Nations to action. This call came in the midst of World War II, when the axis powers were not only waging world war against America and Europe, but also seeking the mass murder and systematic extermination of the Jews of Europe.

In 2021, Alabama exported more than $50 million worth of manufacturing goods to Israel. Since a watershed agreement in 1997, Alabama exports to Israel have totaled more than $1.2 billion and Israel now ranks as Alabama’s 41st leading trade partner.

My wife Rebecca and I were privileged to be members of the State of Alabama delegation, lead by Governor Fob James, who took part in the historic 1997 economic trade mission to Israel. Invited by the Israeli government as its official guest, Alabama business leaders were given the opportunity to join the governor and state representatives for the purpose of developing greater commercial linkages that would increase the economic development between the two states.

Our delegation met at various times with an impressive array of Israeli officials including Speaker of the Knesset Dan Tichon, Minister of Industry and Trade Natan Sharansky, Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, Minister of National Infrastructures Ariel Sharon, President Ezer Weizman, and finally with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It was at this meeting with the Prime Minister that Rebecca and I delivered a personal, private written message from veteran UN correspondent David Horowitz. Their relationship dated to the 1980s when the Prime Minister served as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

The trip proved to be highly successful with Governor Fob James signing a memorandum of intent to improve trade relations, encourage investments and technology transfers and promote the exchange of ideas and company representatives, engineers, scientists, and other specialists between Alabama and Israel. Alabama installed its first ever trade representative in Israel.

Governor James, a staunch supporter of Israel, also spoke at the unveiling of a special plaque honoring the State of Alabama at the American Promenade, a national park located at the gateway to Jerusalem overlooking the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway, 10 minutes before entering the capital. It commemorates the unique bond of friendship between our two countries.

There was, however, another unique event that underscored the exceptional bond.

During our trade mission trip, I was privileged to have the opportunity to arrange a meeting between Governor James, Mr. Kare Kristiansen, former member of the Norwegian Parliament and Chairman of the Embassy 3000 Campaign, and Mr. Lowell Gallin, President of Root and Branch Association in Jerusalem.

As an International Council Member of the R&B Association, I worked with Gallin in a collective effort to arrange the meeting between Mr. Kristiansen and Alabama Governor Fob James during our trade mission trip. I spoke directly with Governor James, who agreed to the meeting, while Gallin made the necessary arrangements for Mr. Kristiansen to fly in from Oslo to meet with us.

The Honorable Kare Kristiansen was the past President of the Norwegian Parliament, former Norwegian Minister of Oil and Energy, and former Chairman of Norway’s Christian Democratic Party. He famously resigned from the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in protest when it awarded a peace prize to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Kristiansen had agreed to serve as the Embassy 3000 International Chairman, a campaign sponsored by the Israeli-based Root and Branch Association to encourage all nations to recognize united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem. Lowell Gallin and author Susan Roth accompanied Mr. Kristiansen.

Our arranged meeting took place in a Tel Aviv hotel room. In attendance were Alabama House Representative Jim Carns and his wife Judy, Author Susan Roth, Ira Silberman, Samson Krupnick, Lowell Gallin, Governor and Mrs. James, the Honorable Kare Kristiansen, Rebecca, and me. The special meeting with Mr. Kristiansen turned out to be more than we could have hoped for.

Our Tel Aviv meeting provided the impetus that led to the State of Alabama’s endorsement of Embassy 3000, calling upon the nations of the world to recognize united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, and to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.

After approval and passage by both houses of the Alabama Legislature, Governor James signed State of Alabama House Resolution HJR 36 that was introduced by Representative Jim Carns of Birmingham, on February 3, 1998.

Alabama’s continued support for the State of Israel, as reflected by Governor James action, was no surprise. In 1995, Fob James paid tribute to Israel in his inauguration as governor, insisting on the singing of “Hatikvah” and the blowing of a shofar by a Jerusalem rabbi.

Twenty years later, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017, and the US Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to an interim facility in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. 

About the Author
Ralph Buntyn is a retired marketing executive for a Fortune 500 company. He is executive vice-president and associate editor for United Israel World Union, a 78 year old Jewish organization dedicated to propagating the ideals of the Torah faith on a universal scale. An author and writer, his articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets including The Southern Shofar, The Jerusalem Post, and the United Israel Bulletin. He is the author of "The Book of David: David Horowitz: Dean of United Nations Press Corps and Founder: United Israel World Union."
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