While other reporters followed Gov. Chris Christie on visits with “political, education, and business leaders or to Jewish and Christian holy sites” during his five-day trip to Israel, columnist Mike Kelly of The Bergen Record left the bus to interview a resident of the Kalandia refugee camp in the West Bank and to meet with a former New Jerseyan, David Wilder, who serves as a spokesman for the Jewish residents of Hebron.
The contrasting portraits of extremism and rejectionism provided an unbiased and unvarnished look at “why the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems so insolvable.” Kelly heard the complaints of the Palestinians about displacement and the lack of basic services, but also allowed Wilder room to explain the Jewish attachment to Hebron.
Kelly’s admirable reporting enriched the coverage of Christie’s visit but didn’t detract from it. The view of Israel afforded Christie was of a country of high-tech startups and booming pharmaceutical companies, thrilling tourist sites and educational and environmental innovation. Christie met Shai Agassi, founder of A Better Place, whose electric car network is fast becoming an international model. Teva Pharmaceutical, with whom Christie signed a nonbinding statement of cooperation, is the world’s largest generic drug maker. The Israel Center for Excellence through Education exports its model of high standards and creative pedagogy to 150 schools around the world.
This is very much the “real” Israel, as much as critics would like to insist otherwise. In fact, stories of Israeli innovation and its contributions to the global economy go under-reported, while reports of conflict dominate the headlines. The governor’s trade mission helped right that imbalance.