Tennessee Governor Finds “an Entire Country on a Mission” In Israel


Gov. Bill HaslamTennessee Gov. Bill Haslam spoke to members of the Nashville Jewish community on Harding Place this past Tuesday night, reflecting on his trade mission to Israel in late August and early September.

The governor shared mostly the personal impact the trip had on him, as he, his family and members of the Nashville business community visited the country that has come to be known as the “start-up nation.”

Haslam said the question he sought to answer on his trip was, “Why Israel?”

“My conclusion is the hard reality that Israel lives its life in a threatened condition, and so because of that I think the technology needs have come out of the security industry. I think there is a mentality that says, ‘We’re going to live this life with persistence and fortitude,’ that’s really good when you are starting businesses, and I think the third thing is that there is a mentality that failure is not the end of the world.”

Haslam said the trip offered him a chance to explore some of his deepest interests, such as faith, history, politics and business and that some of the highlights were his visits to the City of David in Jerusalem, the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, the tech sectors of Tel Aviv and being able to meet with former Israeli president Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Haslam said that he went to Israel with the expectation that the security concerns of the Iran nuclear deal, the threats from Israel’s borders or a growing ethnic and cultural diversity within the country would be of major concern to its residents.

But Haslam said he learned from his tour guide and others that the major concern was that younger generations would not understand the sacrifices that have been necessary to preserve a people he said were nearly wiped off the earth.

“If somebody said, ‘What’s the main thing that impressed you about Israel?’ It would be this: It is an entire country that is on a mission,” Haslam said. “It is an entire country that understands, ‘Here’s why we are here, and here’s why it matters.’ It is the only place I have ever been where everyone, from that person driving your van to your waiter in your restaurant to a businessperson you talk to, understood that there was a bigger purpose going on for everyone in Israel, rather than just what’s happening with their family and their job.”

Mark Freedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation & Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, said he believed the greatest impact of the trade mission was that it showed the governor’s undeniable support for Israel and the business relationship between the country and the State of Tennessee.

“I think that is something that will be very much appreciated by the Jewish community, not just the members of The Temple congregation, but Jews everywhere,” he said.