Great Neck, Nassau County and Binyamin Regional Council sign friendship declaration

Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) Aug 26, 2022

“I always thought that building bridges is the right way to go, both locally and internationally,”  says Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral.

 Israel’s Binyamin Regional Council signed a friendship declaration with Nassau County and a separate one with the village of Great Neck, to “strengthen the friendly and cooperative relations between the two regions.”

The declaration, signed last week, is the latest in a series of similar agreements for Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral. He previously initiated similar arrangements with the Israeli city of Herzliya, as well as the community of Eli in Judea and Samaria. 

“I always thought that building bridges is the right way to go, both locally and internationally,” Bral told JNS. “Israel makes sense for Great Neck. We have a large population of Jews who care about Israel.”

According to the UJA-Federation of New York, the larger Great Neck region’s Jewish population in 2011 stood at 28,700. Newsday estimated in 2019 that the entire population for the Great Neck region was around 41,000. 

The declaration, which aims to “contribute to the mutual understanding and cooperation between the governments and people of Israel and the United States,” is part of a grassroots Heartland Initiative, based in Judea and Samaria. The organization seeks to promote people-to-people connections and so-called economic Zionism in Jewish communities outside of Israel proper.

Gedaliah Blum, co-founder and senior partner at the Heartland Initiative and founder of the nonprofit Bikurim organization, told JNS that these types of friendship declarations help fight the BDS movement by promoting Jewish businesses in Judea and Samaria, and by increasing awareness of tourism opportunities.

“Fewer than 1 in 10 visitors to Israel come to Judea and Samaria. Some of that has to do with security,” acknowledged Bloom. “But it’s also about accessibility. Now, these folks from Great Neck and Nassau County will have a place to go. It opens the door for cultural exchange.”

There is nothing in the declaration itself which lays out specific programs, and the Herzliya declaration- signed pre-COVID- was supposed to serve as a test case, but is just now being implemented. According to all involved, there are to be face-to-face business meetings, student exchange programs and tourism initiatives.