Opinion editor’s note: This commentary was submitted on behalf of seven Minnesota legislators. Their names are listed below.
The headline on a recent commentary by Mary Christine Bader asks, “Do state politicians belong in the Mideast?” (Dec. 9). As the seven Minnesota state legislators currently traveling in Israel and the West Bank, we emphatically believe we do.
First, a few facts. To be clear, all of us are participating in this bipartisan trip using our own personal funds. Since the next legislative session is not set to begin until February, none of us are taking time away from our responsibilities at the State Capitol to be here.
Though we are Democrats and Republicans, representatives and senators, we all came here to gain a deeper understanding of the past, present and future of one of the most complex regions of the world. This region directly impacts many of our constituents and our state’s economy.
As people of faith, we also have deeply personal reasons for being here. This land and its people are sacred to us.
Minnesotans should know that we are here with the intention of hearing from multiple and competing perspectives. As we traveled back and forth across the Green Line, we met with Israeli elected officials and diplomats, Palestinian political leaders, respected Palestinian and Israeli writers, and the young Israelis and Palestinians directly impacted by the conflict. In all of these encounters, the speakers have delivered their truths passionately and without the filter of the international media or outside activists.
Though many view this land only through the lens of the conflict, there is so much more to learn and experience. On Monday, we received briefings from the talented professionals of companies with a significant Minnesota presence about the remarkable breakthroughs driven by their Israeli researchers. Similarly, we met with experts in cybersecurity and data privacy whose work is critical for our state’s economy.
It was fascinating to learn more about the Israeli health care system and inspiring to meet with Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers who are working to improve their lives in Tel Aviv while grappling with significant challenges.
As Minnesota leaders, it is clear to us that the road to a hopeful future for Israelis and Palestinians is paved with dialogue and engagement.
We look forward to returning home with insights and understanding we could not have gained without coming here, and we believe our constituents will be better served by our experiences.
The authors are state Reps. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston; Tama Theis, R-St. Cloud; Steve Elkins, DFL-Bloomington, and Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park; and state Sens. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake; Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, and Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove.