Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reflects on her recent trip to Israel organized by Project Interchange.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spoke with the JN about the recent trip she took to Israel Dec. 15-20 as a part of a bipartisan delegation of Secretary of State participants.
The Israel trip was organized by Project Interchange, a program of the American Jewish Committee, in partnership with the local JCRC/AJC. She said Project Interchange ensured they saw and understood different perspectives.
“Those are relationships that will bear lots of fruit for years to come,” she said. “I felt like I learned a new language while I was there by gaining an in-depth understanding of the history with economic leaders, military leaders, political leaders and thought leaders. It was truly a wonderful, life-changing experience.
“It’s certainly undeniable that being over there gives you a sense of exactly why the U.S. role in this region is so historic and necessary,” she said.
JN: Were there any Detroit- or Michigan-based angles to your trip?
Benson: Yes, the number of people I met who have a connection to Michigan, were from Michigan and who have family in Michigan, from both the Palestinian and Israeli communities, was astounding. Our tour guide from the Peres Center for Innovation was from Ludington.
The relationship Michigan has with Israel and the history there is parallel and very analogous to what our country has with Israel. It’s no coincidence I’m not the only Michigan political leader who has visited Israel in the past few months. That’s reflective of the ties within Michigan. Michigan’s presence is known there. The relationship is very clear.
I would not be surprised if there was a direct flight from Detroit to Tel Aviv with all the travel and connections between the two areas and regions.
JN: How did Israeli innovation play into the trip?
Benson: What I saw in Israel is the power of forward-thinking. We went to the Peres Center and I was really astounded by how the government investment, attention and focus on innovation, as was led by Peres, has really and can really [further innovation]. And frankly, [innovation] is really necessary to position any city, state, region and country as an economic influence — if not global superpower.
That focus on innovation, that focus on creating jobs through empowering others to be innovative and create businesses supporting small business … all of that is something we need from our state leaders and we need from our federal leaders to position our country to have the influence it has had throughout its history.