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Mayor Nirenberg, San Antonio Delegation Embark On Israeli Trade Mission

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg points to Tel Aviv on a mural at the San Antonio International Airport that depicts the city's Sister City relationships. October 20th 2017

Taking off from the San Antonio International Airport Friday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and a delegation will spend the next several days in Tel Aviv. The mayor says this trip's goal is to foster growth and create new business relationships in cyber security, new energy and bio-medicine.


“We know that the majority of the growth of our GDP here locally is a result of a borderless economy," he says. "We build these relationships strategically in communities that have alignment in terms of our industries and technology.”

The trade mission includes a meeting with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, visits with members of the Knesset – Israel's legislative body, Boeing Israel, and Israel-based companies.

In 2011, Tel Aviv became a Friendship City to San Antonio in the Sister Cities International program. The trip is organized by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Jewish Federation of San Antonio. Ramiro Cavazos is the chamber president.

“There are great economic opportunities in Israel and it’s not just tied to religious faith. It’s also tied to the culture and the culture of innovation,” Hispanic Chamber President Ramiro Cavazos says.
Individuals involved in the trade mission include: 

  • Rabbi Chaim Block
  • Mr. Robbie Greenblum, Founder & President, Greenblum Consulting
  • Mr. Louie Escareño, General Counsel, Duty Free America
  • Dr. Thomas Evans, President, University of the Incarnate Word
  • Mr. Will Garrett, Director, Cybersecurity San Antonio
  •  Mr. J Randolph (Randy) Harig, Chairman of Texas Research and Technology Foundation & President/CEO of VelocityTX
  • Mrs. Kay Harig, CEO OfficeSource Ltd and Board Member of Centro Alliance
  • Mr. Rey Cano, Vice President of International and Business Development, San Antonio

Relationships with Israel can be a contentious topic in international politics due to continuing Israeli and Palestinian conflicts. Most recently the Trump Administration said the United States would pull out of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The administration claims UNESCO holds an anti-Israeli bias.

Nirenberg says the trip is about city-to-city diplomacy and not politics.

“If we’re going to build a more peaceful world that means people need to extend their hand to other people and that’s exactly what we do,” he says.

The mayor has requested a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but has not been confirmed. Nirenberg’s portion of the trip includes a stop in Darmstadt, Germany, which is one of San Antonio’s sister cities.

In total, the City is spending about $40,000 on the Israeli trip, which lasts from October 21 to 28. Along the Mayor and Councilman Roberto Treviño, two city staff members are attending. The City says funding comes from these sources:

  • The Mayor’s travel to Israel and Germany will be paid for through the City’s Economic Development Department’s International Initiatives Fund, which is part of the General Fund.
  • Travel for the Chief Diplomacy and Protocol Officer comes from the International Relations Office budget, which is funded by the Hotel Occupancy Tax
  • Councilman Treviño’s travel will be paid through 1) his respective City Council office budget, which is also part of the General Fund; and, since he will be Head of Delegation after the Mayor leaves, half of his costs will be paid by 2) EDD’s International Initiatives Fund.
  • Travel for EDD’s Assistant Director will come from the Economic Development Department’s International Initiatives Fund, which is part of the General Fund.

Councilman Manny Pelaez will join the trip to Germany, which will cost an additional $3,000 from the District 8 Council Office.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules