Ashkelon, Israel becomes Sacramento's newest sister city | News
SACRAMENTO, CA - Sacramento's newest sister city is Ashkelon, Israel.
Sacramento City Council vote unanimously approved that decision Tuesday night after hundreds of people packed into city council chambers.
More than two dozen people signed up to speak out against the choice compared to the dozen or so speaking in support of Ashkelon as the next sister city.
Organizers said the sister city program is to promote cultural, educational and people to people exchanges.
Barry Broad chairs the local Jewish Federation's sister city program.
"Ashkelon is multiethnic, multicultural, a regional center, a port city with great deal of commerce," Broad said. "It kind of fits with Sacramento."
Many argue that Ashkelon is a bad choice. They say Palestinian-Americans would not be allowed to visit the city.
"If our neighbors and friends who are from Palestine can't participate, then we shouldn't have a sister city relationship," Jewish Vote for Peace member David Mandel said.
Others said Ashkelon is connected to a painful past for Palestinians.
"The ethnic cleansing that took place in 1948. My family was part of it. They are refugees in Gaza until this day," said Adeeb Alzanoon, a local delegate for Palestinian American Congress.
Sacramento City Council voted in favor of Ashkelon, saying that the sister city program is about building bridges, not about taking a stance in the Middle East politics.
"We are the city that is the most diverse in the country. We are integrated, and I would hope that we could use this as an opportunity to work together as we move forward," councilman Jay Shenirer said.
Ashkelon, Israel will be Sacramento's 10th sister city. Bethlehem became Sacramento's sister city in 2009.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org