Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, as a delegation of Louisiana government and business officials honored victims of the Holocaust. The solemn ceremony was one of several events in the first full day of the governor’s weeklong trade and economic development mission to Israel. Gov. Edwards, other state officials, and key Louisiana business leaders and researchers will continue to meet over the next four days with Israeli government, industrial, higher education, research and trade officials. 

Gilad Katz, the consul general of Israel to the Southwest United States, extended the invitation for Gov. Edwards to participate in this week’s economic development mission. After two days in Jerusalem, the delegation will visit Tel Aviv, a commercial center and Israel’s second-largest city, and take economic development, fact-finding excursions throughout Israel. The week’s activities will include a planned meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss means of encouraging economic development and broadening cooperation between Louisiana and Israel.

“I am honored to represent the State of Louisiana on this historic visit to Israel,” Gov. Edwards said. “Our country and our state share much with the people of Israel – in matters of faith and culture, as well as commerce. This is an economic development mission, where we will look to strengthen ties with Israel in several key sectors. But it also is an opportunity for us to recognize our cultural ties. Our visit today to Yad Vashem was an important and moving experience for us all.”

Yad Vashem, site of Sunday afternoon’s ceremony, was established in 1953 as Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Also known as the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, it is a 44-acre complex containing a history museum, an art museum and several memorial sites. Among these is the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, recognizing non-Jews who, for altruistic reasons, worked to save Jews from the Nazi genocide during World War II. The center attracts about 1 million visitors a year; its name, taken from the Book of Isaiah, is meant to convey the idea of establishing a national depository for the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their names after death.

Also Sunday, Gov. Edwards and other top Louisiana officials in the trade party, including Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, received a briefing on geopolitical issues at a luncheon hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, the full delegation held meetings with Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz and with officials of Start-Up Nation Central, an innovation partnership that has supported such entrepreneurial companies as Vayavision, a provider of software systems for self-driving vehicles, and Skyline Robotics, which is developing automated window-cleaning systems for skyscrapers.

The day began for Gov. and Mrs. Edwards and others with a 5:30 a.m. (local time) Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. One of the most venerated sites in Christendom, the church contains Jesus’ crucifixion site and tomb.

Sunday’s events set the tone for the week’s busy agenda, as Louisiana officials, business leaders and researchers in key industries will maintain a full slate of meetings with key Israeli counterparts and make occasional visits to significant cultural sites. The 24-person Louisiana delegation includes leaders in cybersecurity, logistics, energy, higher education and water management. Meetings are planned both with companies that have existing projects in Louisiana and with Israeli leaders to discuss opportunities for the country to partner with Louisiana in these and other sectors.

Monday’s itinerary includes a visit to Ben-Gurion University for a document signing to secure a Louisiana-Israeli partnership in water management efforts, and a tour of a military base and the Iron Dome mobile all-weather air defense system. On Tuesday, the group will travel to the Golan Heights, to view Syria from a strategic vantage point and receive geopolitical and economic briefings from Israeli officials. Wednesday’s schedule will include economic development discussions and a planned meeting between Gov. Edwards and Prime Minister Netanyahu. On Thursday, several meetings are planned with the representatives of energy companies operating in Israel.

Photos of Gov. Edwards’ meeting with the Ministry of Energy are available here.

Photos of Gov. Edwards’ meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are available here.

Photos and video of the wreath laying ceremony at Yad Vashem with the governor and first lady are available here. (Video footage will be uploaded to the site today.)

News outlets are invited to use the photos and video. Credit: Office of the Governor.