Erdan goes ‘Down South’ for Black History Month on first official tour

WASHINGTON – Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, took a three-day visit to South Carolina and Alabama to celebrate Black History Month. It was his first official tour since taking office.
In Montgomery, Alabama, the ambassador toured the Rosa Parks Museum and at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a pastor there.
“At the Rosa Parks Museum today, I was truly inspired to hear how one woman’s steadfast courage helped spark an entire movement for change,” he tweeted.
He also visited the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where the 1965 Bloody Sunday beatings of civil rights marchers took place.
“Looking into the eyes of people whose ancestors suffered as enslaved Africans, I could really feel their pain,” said Erdan. “What I have seen here has moved me profoundly, and I hope it will allow me to better engage with the community and build stronger ties on behalf of Israel.”
He added that “there is still so much for me to learn about what happened here, but I hope this trip will just be the start of my journey.
“Even as a cabinet member, I felt frustrated that we don’t have a strong enough connection to the Black community,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “In the past, we had a natural bond, as both communities have suffered racism and discrimination. As years went by, the relationship waned, and that’s the reason it was crucial for me to come here and send a message that building bridges is a priority. Creating bonds with grassroots leaders is essential, and I’d like to lay the foundations for our relationship’s future, not only for my term as ambassador,” Erdan said.
“I decided to come here during Black History Month and dedicate three full days to learn about Black history,” he continued. “I met with local leaders and elected officials to learn about the dark period of slavery and about the fight for justice and equality during the civil rights movement.”
Erdan’s visit was hosted by The Philos Project, an organization that says it promotes “positive Christian engagement in the Near East and fostering the next generation of African-American leaders.” 
The ambassador was accompanied on his trip by Israel’s Consul-General in the South, Anat Sultan-Daon. He met with a diverse group of people, including best-selling author Bakari Sellers; Gullah storyteller and historian Anita Singleton-Prather; and professor of African American history Damon Fordham.
He also met with Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina and Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, as well as US Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and the mayors of Charleston and Selma.
In Charleston, Erdan toured the McLeod Slave Plantation and the Magnolia Plantation, learning about slavery. Later, he visited the Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine African Americans were shot dead by a white supremacist in 2015.
“I was really moved to hear about the community’s resilience following the terrible shooting and also about how they reached out to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh following the shooting there in the Tree of Life synagogue,” he said. “No one should feel vulnerable or threatened in a place of worship.”
Erdan said “I genuinely believe that strengthening the relationship between us could promote the US-Israel relationship.
“Walking on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and learning from local leaders on MLK [Martin Luther King] and the civil rights movement was truly an inspiring experience,” he continued. “As Israel’s ambassador to the US, it is very important to me to connect with all sectors of American society and in particular with minority groups, which we have not had enough engagement with in the past.”

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