Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (AP/Al Goldis, File) (AP/Al Goldis, File)
Rashida Tlaib

The author, an entrepreneur from California and a Zionist activist, will be in Israel at same time as Tlaib and invites the pro-BDS congresswoman to join her for a day in order to enhance her educational experience.

By Gina Raphael 

Dear Congresswoman Tlaib,

My name is Gina Raphael and I am from Los Angeles, California. Outside of my business and family, my energies are focused on developing the State of Israel as a beacon of light to the world.

I’m so glad you’re visiting Israel in August along with Rep. Omar. I, too am traveling to Israel at the same time along with my ten-year-old daughter Mia, who is also an immigrant, adopted from China. Mia has been fortunate to visit Israel many times and has grown to love Israel just as much as her love for America. We would like to invite both of you to spend a day with us in Israel’s north and experience some of the amazing work going on. We’d love to show you what is really happening outside of the media.

For instance, we can visit the future site of a world-class Culinary Institute in the north of Israel that will be the finest in the Middle East. It will bring people of all walks of life and religions together through a love for food. The Institute will help to transform a region that has had a 40 percent decline in population. This region is supposed to be the silicon-valley of food technology.

Amazing work is happening in Israel’s north that will benefit all Israeli’s population – Jews, Druze, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians alike As they say there, they don’t coexist… they exist as great neighbors. I would be honored to show you how they ‘exist’!

Close by, we can see the initial plans for a new medical center that will help people of all religions given this lacking resource in the area. On prior visits, we met Syrians who have been helped by Israelis at hospitals. I’m not sure if you realize, but Israel took care of over 4,000 Syrians wounded during the Syrian civil war. The average patient spent over 1 month in the hospital, with a few spending over 18 months. The government hospitals never turned down one patient, regardless of how intensive the wounds or needed surgeries.

We’d love to show you the Galilee Medical Center, where 3,000 wounded Syrians were treated. The director of the hospital, Dr. Masad Barhoum, is an Israeli Arab I’m sure you might enjoy a conversation with him to hear what the reality truly is. I would love nothing more than to see kindness like this sprinkled throughout the world.

We can also receive an update on a program funded by amazing donors in the US that provides new career training to women across religions that have been impacted by violence as well as others just searching for new ways to move their lives forward. While women in Israel build bridges together, it’s disheartening to hear that those in your own community attack those individuals that work together with Jews to make positive change together.

If you let me know at your earliest convenience if you can spend time with Mia and me in Israel, we can try and arrange a meeting with the head of Israel’s Bank Leumi and their new Chairman Dr. Samer Haj Yihye. The head of Israel’s leading bank is an Israeli Arab, which highlights the pluralistic nature of the country.

We can also ask to meet with Amir Ohana, Israel’s Minister of Justice who is gay. While other countries in the Middle East torture or kill those in the LGBT community, the largest city in Israel, Tel Aviv, is known as the most gay friendly city in the world.

This is only a sampling of the many things we can do together as we share the beauty of Israel together. As we hope for you to experience the reality of Israel, so you can advocate for the only democracy in the Middle East and America’s closest ally.

This will be Mia’s 8th trip to Israel and she has already become a beacon of change. Mia has raised money to help provide special training to young individuals from all different religious backgrounds with special needs pairing them with canines. I’m sure she would like nothing more than showing you the Israel she knows and loves.

Thank you so much.

Gina Raphael and Mia Raphael

Gina Raphael is an entrepreneur and business owner in Beverly Hills, CA. She is active in the Jewish National Fund, WIZO and Israel Bonds. This letter was first published in Lay of the Land.

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