With Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai by his side, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced he will lead an economic mission to Israel and the West Bank this fall, along with Toronto Mayor John Tory.
The Nov. 12-18 trip is being organized in partnership with the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and business people, as well as those from the cultural and academic milieus, are expected to join the delegation.
This is only the second economic mission Coderre has led since his election in 2013; the first was last November to China. That Israel is next is an indication of the importance the City of Montreal places on business and cultural ties with that country.
Coderre received Huldai at city hall on June 20, the first Israeli mayor he has had the opportunity to meet in his chambers. Huldai was here to speak that night at the Jewish National Fund of Montreal’s Negev Gala at Marché Bonsecours.
Coderre and Huldai spoke of possible collaboration in information technology, the life sciences and security, areas in which both cities have expertise. They also discussed Coderre’s “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism and the city’s program to prevent radicalization that leads to violence.
A brief protocol was signed in 1996 between Montreal and Tel Aviv, but little followed. The two mayors (Huldai was first elected in 1998) hope to now make the exchanges it foresaw concrete.
At a media conference after their private talks, Coderre offered his condolences and “clear and unequivocal condemnation” of the terrorist shooting in Tel Aviv earlier this month in which four innocent people were killed.
He did so not only as mayor, but as current president of Metropolis, the World Association of Major Metropolises. He took the occasion to invite Tel Aviv to join the group, which acts as a collective voice of the mayors of its 138 member cities.
Huldai and Coderre spoke of the similarities between their two cities: their diversity, vibrancy and inclusivity.
They noted that both flew the rainbow flag of the LGBT community at their city halls as a show of solidarity after the massacre in a gay club in Orlando, Fla.
Both Tel Aviv and Montreal are recognized by UNESCO as Cities of Design. On June 16, Montreal was named “Intelligent Community of the Year” at an international technological forum in Columbus, Ohio for its progress as a “Smart and Digital City,” a designation Tel Aviv previously earned.
Huldai observed that French is now heard frequently on the streets of Tel Aviv with the influx of thousands of immigrants from France.
A former airforce fighter pilot and general, Huldai described Israel’s largest city as “standing for modern Zionism, for its democracy, pluralism and tolerance. We see Tel Aviv as the backbone of the modern state.”
One thing Huldai wishes Tel Aviv had in common with Montreal is a metro, to which Coderre quickly responded, “We have Bombardier.”
Coderre and Huldai expect to meet again in November during the mission, which coincides with two international conferences in Israel. In Tel Aviv, there will be one on homeland and cyber security, and, in Jerusalem, a mayors’ gathering. Coderre is scheduled to speak at the latter.
The mission, which has been in the works for some time, expanded to include Toronto participation following the signing of an agreement between Coderre and Tory in April. They agreed to “co-operation and partnership” in matters of mutual interest, including taking joint economic missions overseas to attract investment in their respective towns.
The trip to Israel and the West Bank will be their first show of unity between Canada’s two largest cities on the world stage.
While the details of the itinerary and program have not been finalized, the mission will include stops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Ramallah, and possibly Be’er Sheva, the Negev city with which the Montreal Jewish community is twinned.
If the two mayors’ rapport is any indication, Montreal and Tel Aviv’s partnership should amount to more than words on paper.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) welcomed the news of Coderre’s leading a mission to Israel.
“CIJA-Quebec is delighted by this initiative undertaken by Mayor Coderre… Israel is a world leader in applied sciences, green economy, medicine, high tech, and the transfer of technologies,” said co-chair Patrick Benaroche. “For many years, Quebec universities and start-ups have looked to Israel as a leader in innovative technology…
“The expertise shared between Israel and Montreal creates opportunities for mutually advantageous partnerships that already benefit many companies, as well as several of Montreal and Israel’s universities. The mayor’s delegation will undoubtedly contribute to furthering these areas of co-operation and deepening bilateral relations between Israel and Quebec.”