Gov. Hickenlooper: Trip to Israel was ‘the most remarkable of my life’

Published on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 by Webmaster

Gov. Hickenlooper: Trip to Israel was ‘the most remarkable of my life’
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently returned from a week in Israel where he traveled with Denver businessman Larry Mizel and three other private citizens. This was the first time that Hickenlooper has been to Israel. Although the trip abroad was personal versus state business, the Governor agreed to share some of his experiences with The Colorado Statesman in an interview at his Capitol office on April 30. The following transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

Colorado Statesman: You were in Israel on The Day of Remembrance, as well as our Memorial Day. What were your thoughts and general impressions of the country?

Governor Hickenlooper: You know, it was the most remarkable seven-day trip of my life, without question. I wouldn't say it was the most relaxing. You can't travel for seven days and be completely relaxed. But it was the most remarkable... on so many different levels. There's so many things that we don't really understand. You can read words in a book, [but] when you actually see it and experience it, especially when you're meeting people... I really feel that I went as one person and I came back as a very different, hopefully more improved person.

I mean from the tree planting... you know the National Jewish Fund is having their national meeting is in Denver in October this year. First time they've ever met in Denver.

The National Jewish Fund has planted 250 million trees there. 250 million trees! Our goal for metropolitan Denver was to try to plant a million trees in 20 years. They've had 250 million in 110 years.

We had a three-hour dinner with Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, and perhaps prime minister again. We had a 15-minute meeting with Bibi Netanyahu, although 15 minutes stretched into 20 minutes, stretched into 30 minutes, stretched into 40 minutes, stretched into 50 minutes, right? I mean he kept talking about all this stuff and it was invigorating, to say the least, to have that candid a conversation with someone who's making decisions that count.

We went to the Golan Heights on the day before Memorial Day. You know the tank commander who in the Six-Day War when 200 tanks came over the hill from Syria, 200 Russian-made tanks attacked from Syria, he was the guy who defended it with like 40 tanks. We heard his eyewitness account of that battle, which was... you know, 40 years ago, right? And it was as if it was yesterday and you're standing on the landscape. And he says, "That's where they came through and they came over that bridge there."

We bobbed around like a cork in the Dead Sea, we had a wonderful tour of Masada and heard all the stories of bravery.

Statesman: Did you pick up anything that you thought maybe this is something we can learn about for Colorado?

Hickenlooper: Oh, absolutely. So the National Jewish Fund's coming, experts in trees and forestry. We have millions of acres with dead trees on it that we're going to have to replant. In terms of drought and fire resistant trees, they're the experts in the world.

We also have some of their various industries, so we had a two-hour presentation with the folks who created what's called the Iron Dome, their satellite defense system, which was remarkable. And to have them right there with us explaining how they created it and how it worked, it was a remarkable gift.

You know, we were based out of Jerusalem so we spent quite a lot of time in Jerusalem and I think we went back to the West Wall three different times. But we went down on one tour, deep, deep, deep into the... I mean we went down below as they excavated down, so you go down to the time of Jesus and then 1,000 B.C. and the time of King David. And then... most people have never seen this, you go down to the time of King Solomon, 2,000 B.C. They've uncovered roads and ruins and baths from the time of King Solomon. I mean what a thing to walk on roads that were built 3,000 years ago. It's just, it makes... It boggles the mind, it makes your head spin.

Statesman: The Legislature passed a bill about Colorado being able to invest in Israeli bonds. How do you see Colorado and Israel being able to work together in the future?

Hickenlooper: I think that there are so many ways that Israel and Colorado can work. I mean we're sort of the same... Colorado's almost five and a half million people, Israel's just about eight million people. I mean they're not that much bigger than we are. They're a long way away but they have similar needs... in terms of their agriculture and their water use, and they also have the challenges of assimilating all these different people from all over the world that we have. They have just recently the potential to become energy independent, which is similar to us. They have a huge entrepreneurial kind of startup mentality... How do we start more businesses? I think the more we cross pollinate the two places, the better.

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