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Bethlehem becomes 9th Sister City

The Sacramento City Council unanimously passed, with a 10-0 vote, the Bethlehem Sister City Initiative proposal, which establishes a formal relationship between Sacramento and Bethlehem, during Tuesday’s council meeting.

The council also adopted a resolution to establish a relationship with an Israeli city in the future.

The Bethlehem Sister City Initiative was started in 2006 by community volunteers who were interested in forming environmental, artistic and agricultural ties between the two cities, according to the report by Council Operations Manager Lisa Serna-Mayorga.

This past October, the Jewish community also expressed interest in forming a bond between Sacramento and an Israeli city.

Barry Broad, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council, is a supporter of both initiatives, but said he believes politics should be kept separate from the relationship built within the cities.

“Sacramento is neither going to solve the problems of the Middle East, nor do we want to in any way exacerbate them,” he said. “One of the important aspects of the Sister City Program is to foster these kind of people-to-people, business-to-business (relationships).”

Broad said Sacramento is a cross-culture community that is diverse in many aspects, including religion. He said members of the community are accepting and therefore should lead by example.

“In this community, there isn’t any tension,” he said. “We are a model for hopefully what maybe folks can someday be in that part of the world.”

Councilmember Steve Cohn agreed.

“I think, as Barry said, it’s likely that Sacramento is going to be the answer to peace in the Middle East,” he said. “On the other hand, we can do our part — and our part is to show that people are people where ever they are in the world and we can get along.”

He said he hopes the spirit of acceptance in the Sacramento community will prevail in other parts of the world.

And that is the goal of Sacramento’s Sister Cities Council – to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.”

The council was established in the late 1980s under Mayor Anne Rudin after Sacramento had already partnered with various cities around the world.

Starr Hurley, president of the Hamilton-Sacramento Sister City Committee, said the council was established in order for all Sister City organizations to connect with one another.

“The Sister City Council is like an information center,” she said. “We meet every other month to find out what each of the Sister Cities are doing so that we can keep informed.”

Sacramento currently has nine Sister Cities: Manila, Philippines- established in 1961; Matsuyama, Japan- established in 1981; Jinan, China- established in 1984; Hamilton, New Zealand- established in 1988; Liestal, Switzerland- established in 1989; Chisinau, Moldova- established in 1989; Yongsan-gu, Korea- established in 1997; San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua- established in 2006; and finally Bethlehem, Palestine- established Tuesday.

But the Jewish community has already made its mark to become Sacramento’s 10th Sister City.

Sacramentan Maurice Mrabe, initiative supporter who is originally from Palestine, said the Middle East needs that kind of support from cities around the United States.

“I think all the towns of the West Bank need this outlet and this relationship with the outside world,” he said. “These types of relationships can be an open door to the world.”

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Nallelie Vega

  • Rashad Baadqir

    A little note of cultural demographics for everyone here, Bethlehem exists in a majority Muslim town, yet, there is not mention of that nor did the article’s writer have a Muslim community representative comment on this initiative.

    I agree this initiative does nothing in the way of solving world politics in the Middle East, but it should serve for good public relations.

    • I agree with your sentiment, that Bethlehem’s Palestinian majority and culture should be a part of the Sister-City acknowledgment.

      Anecdotally, most Israeli Jews, and most American Jews, wish to set aside the seemingly never-ending conflict in the Middle East, and for Jews and Palestinians to live together in peace. Most people want peace, and to conduct business, and live in their homes, free of violence in any form. In fact, there is a group in NYC that formed some years ago to enable this very idea among American Jews in particular and to stop the perception of a perpetual conflict between and among peoples of the Middle East. People are people — we all want to work, to play, to live, free from whatever impediments to doing so, including violence, and the perception of violence and the divided loyalties that accompany such…

      Let’s hope our little Sister Cities program adds to the side of the scale that weighs toward peace…

  • Nallelie Vega

    Well sir, the Muslium representative would be Mrabe. He’s ORIGINALLY from Palestine and was there for the BETHLEHEM initiative.

    • Rashad Baadqir

      While I appreciate your informative story, I wish you would had made mention of it in the article that he was Muslim-Palestinian. I am in good with many Arab Muslims in this area and most didn’t know that there was such a initiative being passed.

    • This is Maurice writing. I must disappoint you guys. I posted a comment at the City website to support the initiative as a Palestinian Christian, who loves his people and country. I am not a muslim; but does this really matter? I can talk on behalf of the Palestinians in a very fair and uncompromised manner; Bethlehem in particular is town of great significance to Christians and until recent decades, it has been traditionally a Christian town. Picking up on the religious background is not really very helpful, and I am assuming that no body else posted a comment on the city website as I did. I didn’t expect to find it in this report.

      What I actually wanted to make clear through my comment is that the Israeli occupation is inhibiting the growth and the freedom of my people in Bethlehem and else where in Palestine. The relationship with the city of Sacramento, I hope, will open the door for Palestinians in Bethlehem to tell their side of the story to world, which usually does not get past the inhumane wall Israel has built around the town. Israel doesn’t want the rest of world to know what is going on. This is why Israel’s lobby unnecessarily made a fuss.

      I actually don’t agree with the Jewish reprsentative that this relationship should not have any political significance. It does; and everybody involved, including the council members, know that. In my opinion, it will be impossible to find a “similar” town in Israel to have sister city relationship with Sacramento, because we will have to find for a walled-in city or town such as Bethlehem, which we won’t find, unless we think of Akko or Old City of Jerusalem that have historical walls around them. It just doen’t work.

      To believe Barry Broad’s statement that politics should be kept out of this relationship is very misleading. The very notion that there is a need to establish a similar relationship with an Israeli city, already made the issue “political”. Otherwise, the Israeli lobbyists shouldn’t have objected about the Bethlehem relationship at all. So, I don’t buy his misleading comments, and I don’t think anybody else should.

      By the way many Muslim Palestinians were present at the council meeting. But again, religion is not the issue here, except in the context of preserving a historical holy site such as Bethlehem. I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings here.

  • Death Valley

    Councilmember Steve Cohn agreed.
    “I think, as Barry said, it’s likely that Sacramento is going to be the answer to peace in the Middle East,” he said. “On the other hand, we can do our part — and our part is to show that people are people where ever they are in the world and we can get along.”

    What planet are you from? I can only hope this is a typo.

    I’m sure the Palestinians are relived that the Sacramento city council had been working diligently to improve relations and business opportunities.

  • Nallelie Vega

    Oh wow, I can’t believe neither I, nor the copy editors caught that. Sorry about that it should read(minus the caps):

    “I think, as Barry said, it’s likely that Sacramento is not going to be the answer to peace in the Middle East,” he said. “On the other hand, we can do our part — and our part is to show that people are people where ever they are in the world and we can get along.”

  • The Parrhesiac

    So what is the message here? I don’t get it…What are the council members trying to achieve? Are they supporting the plight of the Palestinians who had their homeland taken by England which then created Israel? Are they wanting to have a relationship with the town Christ was born in?

    It takes some serious narcissism on the councils part to think making Bethlehem a sister city will do ANYTHING for anyone, besides feeding their need for adulation & attention.

  • Why not? Anything wrong with that? Do you have any better alternative? Your comment is not in place.

    I believe many Americans are wanting to do something to end the plight of the Palestinians. So, why not start with a little step? Does this bother you? Its true the Federal government should be taking action, which, thank God, the Obama administration is doing now, but everybody else can be involved in experessing their support for the Palestinians, one way or another.

    Doesn’t bother me at all!

    • It is almost one year since the last comment – but I was not aware fo this article one year ago. I just found it while working online tonight. I actully am an active member of the SacramentoBethlehem Sister City and we are still working to bring authentic Palestinian voices into our community. Check this out: http://www.SacramentoBethlehem.org and click on our events page. Morris, and others I hope you come!
      Nallelie too. Then you can get a quote from the very people working on the project. Thanks everyone for your interest!

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