Senate, Assembly leaders gather for Jerusalem 3000

Joining about 100 Jewish leaders from across the state, California legislators took a break from debating school vouchers and immigration law to hold a joint session in Sacramento to celebrate Jerusalem 3000 Day.

Monday's meeting was the first joint session of the state Assembly and Senate in 10 years. The last time they met together was to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Crowding the Assembly floor, lawmakers listened to flutist Irad Carmi play "Dance for a Flute Solo" and "Jerusalem of Gold."

Gov. Pete Wilson spoke of his four trips to Jerusalem. He also proclaimed that May 13, 1996 would be known as Jerusalem 3000 Day throughout the state.

"It shows there is strong support for Israel and Jewish causes in the California political body. That for me is a very encouraging sign," said Nimrod Barkan, Israeli Consul General for Northern California.

Barkan's Southern California counterpart, Yoram Ben Ze'ev, also attended.

The entire morning session lasted only half an hour, though it comprised a musical interlude, Wilson's proclamation and remarks from Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) and Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward).

Rabbis, Jewish federation and Jewish Community Relations Council leaders were among the assembled guests, all of whom left the packed Assembly floor after the meeting to attend a reception sponsored by Carmel and Hagafen wineries.

Gov. Wilson made a toast, raising one glass of red wine and one glass of white. One was for Jerusalem. One was for California. He wished Jerusalem l'chaim ("to life").

Wilson's senior policy adviser Rosalie Zalis noted that while the session was a nonpartisan event and that "there wasn't a dry eye there," the governor's support of Israel is hardly new. She pointed to California's trade office in Jerusalem and to the California-Israel Exchange — which was established two years ago to create jobs and revenue in California while increasing investments in Israel — as proof that Wilson's support "is not something that comes out of the genie bottle on election year."

Bill Lowenberg, chairman of local Jerusalem 3000 events, agreed. He added, "Let's face it, there's strength in business between California and Israel and it's visible."

Besides Lowenberg, other Bay Area guests included Ami Nashon, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay; Doug Heller, president of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation; and Felice Sheramy, associate director of the S.F.-based JCRC. All of them were pleased with the state's show of support for Israel.

"To have the whole assembly still and silent while the music of Jerusalem wafted up and filled the room — to have all the members of the legislature and representatives of the Jewish community throughout the state fill the room — was very powerful," Sheramy said.