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New Hampshire and Israel Strengthen Bonds

YEHUDA YAAKOV, FOR THE CONCORD MONITOR - In a powerful display of unity, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing traveled to Orlando to visit survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre. Within a matter of moments, these individuals went from being strangers to being a part of a community of survivors and partners for change that is reaching unprecedented levels of membership.

Just a few days before the attack on the LGBT community in Orlando, terror victimized Jews in Tel Aviv, for whom the outpouring of sympathy here in New England was entirely heartwarming.

These tragedies were preceded by attacks against concert-goers in Paris, travelers in Brussels, community workers in San Bernardino, journalists in Syria and others. In each case, the victims were innocent. They were guilty of no more than belonging to an open society that values freedom and democracy.

As the free world and its way of life increasingly comes under attack, reasons for optimism become that much more valuable. Israel’s robust friendship with the United States is one reason I remain optimistic. In fact, in recent weeks the United States and Israel cooperated on a host of measures meant to bolster safety in both America and the Middle East.

Case in point: the most recent strategic dialogue just held in Jerusalem, led by senior officials from the U.S. Department of State, Israeli National Security Council and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The high-level participants discussed a range of security issues including shared threats from terrorist organizations and Iran, as well as opportunities for regional cooperation. Both parties agreed that threats from terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas have drastically undermined regional stability and present enormous threats to both U.S. and Israeli security.

Dialogue like this, based on our shared values and common interests, are critical to the success of our enduring strategic partnership.

New threats have focused the United States’ and Israel’s attention on new ways to combat terrorism. That is why just recently representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security met with officials from Israel’s National Cyber Bureau in Tel Aviv to sign a joint declaration on operative cyber defense cooperation. The declaration expresses the vital nature of an international integration of forces needed to combat shared threats in the cyber sphere.

The agreement stipulates that the U.S. and Israel will cooperate on managing cyber events, the cyber defense of critical infrastructure, building partnerships with the private sector, and developing innovative technologies and solutions.

And that’s not all. While these meetings were taking place, a team of soldiers from the Israeli Home Front Command and the Indiana National Guard were on the ground in Israel participating in a joint disaster relief exercise meant to better equip both parties with the skills necessary to save lives in the wake of mass casualties events.

Such state-level initiatives are not uncommon in U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, New Hampshire and Israel maintain a defense relationship of their own. Just last year, Newton’s HALO Maritime Defense Systems installed a cutting-edge naval barrier in Israel.

I was present at the dedication ceremony for the unveiling of this initiative. I remember the master of ceremonies calling on all army veterans to stand for acknowledgement, prompting me to ask a HALO representative whether I should also rise. His response was so logical: The U.S. and Israel fight for the same values, and will always stand together. And so I did.

On another front, the Derry-based, Israeli-owned company Intelitek provides another reason for my optimism. Through revolutionary education technologies, Intelitek is transforming learning environments across the globe. A close partner with MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation – Intelitek has increased literacy throughout the world by providing technical training to developing countries, making it easier for educators to teach emerging fields such as STEM education, and generally keeping students excited about learning.

While the social impact of New England-based, Israeli-founded companies is admirable, their overwhelming economic impact is the main story. A recent study published by the New England-Israel Business Council found that in 2015, Israeli-founded companies in Massachusetts brought in $9.3 billion in revenue, created 9,000 jobs, and contributed to nearly 4 percent of the state’s GDP.

The combination of defense cooperation and tech education, both with lasting impact, is proof that the New Hampshire-Israel relationship can yield significant benefits locally, bilaterally and globally.

Together, through even more robust teamwork, I am confident that the New Hampshire-Israel partnership can help guide the world through these dark times.

(Yehuda Yaakov is Israel’s consul general to New England.)