Rep. Kaye Leads Nine Georgia Legislators’ Visit to Israel

Rep. Kaye Leads Nine Georgia Legislators’ Visit to Israel

The non-partisan trip was organized by State Rep. Mitchell Kaye.

The Georgia delegation posed in front of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Georgia delegation posed in front of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When Mitchell Kaye decided to run for the Georgia General Assembly last spring — to fill the role of Republican Matt Dollar, who resigned from his post as district 45 representative — he knew he would only be in office for a few months, until the Assembly convened in January 2023. He also knew what he wanted to accomplish in those few months.

“My idea was, if I got elected, I would do something for our community,” Kaye said. Among those ideas was to put together a trip to Israel for fellow Georgia legislators. That week-long trip for a total of 17 people concluded on Aug. 23. Three Democratic state legislators and six Republican state legislators were among the group which included family members, as well as Kaye’s wife.

“It was important to me that it be a nonpartisan and non-political trip,” said Kaye. Each legislator paid their own way, with no subsidies provided. “One gentleman had been to Israel 25 years ago,” Kaye said, but most had never visited the country. “The rest were on the religious Christian side.”

Nine Georgia legislators visited Israel in August, meeting with Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma.

Among those traveling with Kaye were State Representatives Debra Bazemore (D-South Fulton), Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville), Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City), Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain), Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) and State Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta). Bazemore and Gravley are the co-chairs of the Georgia-Israel Legislative Caucus.

Kaye said he put the trip together with just six-weeks’ notice. Among the places they visited were Jerusalem, the Golan, the Palestinian city of Ramallah and the Jordan River. The Christian members of the trip also visited Bethlehem on Shabbat.

“The Israeli consulate was very helpful” in putting together the visit and arranging meetings with a “smorgasbord” of officials dealing with the military, the economy and foreign affairs.

Among the officials they met with was Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai, who had taught at Emory University a few years ago. The group also met with Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma, member of the Knesset Ruth Lande and Major General (ret.) Alon Levavi to learn more about the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, from the Israeli perspective.

Former Emory University professor and current Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai (left) met with Rep. Mitchell Kaye and Rep. Debra Bazemore.

“I plan on working with the consulate to have at least annual trips, starting as early as next spring,” said Kaye. “I don’t have to be officially in office to help arrange the trips.”

The representative anticipates again working with Anat Sultan-Dadon, consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States.

“There are many opportunities for Georgia and Israel to further partner and collaborate, and this visit will enhance our relations,” Sultan-Dadon said ahead of the August trip. These opportunities will only grow as Delta Air Lines begins to offer direct flights from Atlanta to Tel Aviv in March 2023.

Asked about any reunions among the legislators who traveled to Israel together, Kaye noted that he had recently met at the “consul general’s personal residence in honor of the legislative trip.”

Anticipating the next trip to Israel, Kaye said that he would first invite the leadership of the Georgia House and Senate “on both sides of the aisle.”
Prior to the August trip, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a commendation to recognize the legislative trip to Israel. In that commendation, Kemp highlighted the economic and cultural benefits of the relationship between Georgia and Israel, including the fact that the state exported more than $280 million worth of goods to Israel and imported $652 million worth of goods from Israel just last year.

Planning and encouraging visits to Israel are not the only focus of Kaye’s short tenure this time around in the Georgia legislature. Kaye had represented House District 37 from 1993 to 2003. Pointing to the fact that he was elected to fill a position after the prior representative resigned, Kaye said he would “like to see the seat be appointed rather than elected.”

He also said that it cost $450,000 to hold the election and that there was very low turnout “for a seat in which the legislator will not be in the Capitol for one legislative day.”

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