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Bethlehem becomes 9th Sister City

The Sacramento City Council unanimously passed, with a 10-0 vote, the Bethlehem Sister City Initiative proposal, which establishes a formal relationship between Sacramento and Bethlehem, during Tuesday’s council meeting.

The council also adopted a resolution to establish a relationship with an Israeli city in the future.

The Bethlehem Sister City Initiative was started in 2006 by community volunteers who were interested in forming environmental, artistic and agricultural ties between the two cities, according to the report by Council Operations Manager Lisa Serna-Mayorga.

This past October, the Jewish community also expressed interest in forming a bond between Sacramento and an Israeli city.

Barry Broad, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council, is a supporter of both initiatives, but said he believes politics should be kept separate from the relationship built within the cities.

“Sacramento is neither going to solve the problems of the Middle East, nor do we want to in any way exacerbate them,” he said. “One of the important aspects of the Sister City Program is to foster these kind of people-to-people, business-to-business (relationships).”

Broad said Sacramento is a cross-culture community that is diverse in many aspects, including religion. He said members of the community are accepting and therefore should lead by example.

“In this community, there isn’t any tension,” he said. “We are a model for hopefully what maybe folks can someday be in that part of the world.”

Councilmember Steve Cohn agreed.

“I think, as Barry said, it’s likely that Sacramento is going to be the answer to peace in the Middle East,” he said. “On the other hand, we can do our part — and our part is to show that people are people where ever they are in the world and we can get along.”

He said he hopes the spirit of acceptance in the Sacramento community will prevail in other parts of the world.

And that is the goal of Sacramento’s Sister Cities Council – to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.”

The council was established in the late 1980s under Mayor Anne Rudin after Sacramento had already partnered with various cities around the world.

Starr Hurley, president of the Hamilton-Sacramento Sister City Committee, said the council was established in order for all Sister City organizations to connect with one another.

“The Sister City Council is like an information center,” she said. “We meet every other month to find out what each of the Sister Cities are doing so that we can keep informed.”

Sacramento currently has nine Sister Cities: Manila, Philippines- established in 1961; Matsuyama, Japan- established in 1981; Jinan, China- established in 1984; Hamilton, New Zealand- established in 1988; Liestal, Switzerland- established in 1989; Chisinau, Moldova- established in 1989; Yongsan-gu, Korea- established in 1997; San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua- established in 2006; and finally Bethlehem, Palestine- established Tuesday.

But the Jewish community has already made its mark to become Sacramento’s 10th Sister City.

Sacramentan Maurice Mrabe, initiative supporter who is originally from Palestine, said the Middle East needs that kind of support from cities around the United States.

“I think all the towns of the West Bank need this outlet and this relationship with the outside world,” he said. “These types of relationships can be an open door to the world.”

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