Sister City Shalom

It’s one of those countless events that are always happening around City Hall. An official group from somewhere being acknowledged for something.

In this case, Tampa was adding the eighth international affiliate to its mix of Sister City partners. Hardly stop-the-presses stuff.

The six-member delegation, including the mayor, was from Ashdod, Israel. They would meet with Mayor Pam Iorio and exchange token gifts and formal pleasantries in that intimate, anonymous brick amphitheater outside City Hall.

But Ashdod, Israel is — geo-politically speaking — not exactly Oviedo, Spain or Agrigento, Italy.

Ashdod – population 210,000 – is a deepwater port city on the Mediterranean about 40 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. A third of its residents are from somewhere else -Russia. Its delegation, led by Mayor Zvi Zilker, had an itinerary that included meetings with police officials, anti-drug specialists, Jewish leaders and — port personnel.

Two years ago Ashdod suffered a terrorist attack at its port that resulted in 10 deaths. It could share surveillance, security and first-response information – and advice – with its Tampa counterparts. Post-9/11 America notwithstanding, nobody knows the front lines of terrorism like the Israelis.

And nobody values America’s war on terrorism more than Israel.

“This is important to us,” said Mayor Zilker, “and this is important to Israel to have this contact. The more contact with America, with political persons, the better. We want to explain what’s happening in Israel.”

The prime mover in the Tampa-Ashdod partnership is Jack Ross, 41, a Tampa commercial real estate developer with dual American/Israeli citizenship.

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