Former Arkansas Governor and vice-presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee flew in to Israel Monday on a whirlwind two-day fact-finding and solidarity tour. On his first day in the Holy Land, Huckabee visited Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, while on Tuesday he is scheduled to tour Sderot.
Huckabee is said to be on Republican presidential candidate John McCain's "short list" of running mates.
Daniel Lurie, executive director of the Jerusalem Reclamation Project (Ateret Kohanim), took Governor Huckabee around Jerusalem, including a traditional stop at the Western Wall. However, Huckabee was also afforded the opportunity to view parts of Jerusalem which no major American politician has had the privilege of seeing. These included new Jewish enclaves at Abu Tor, the Yemenite Village in the Shiloach (Silwan Valley), Kidmat Zion, the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the grand new housing project at the Mount of Olives.
While touring, Governor Huckabee also had time to make statements and respond to questions from journalists.
Gov. Huckabee said he understood the need for a Palestinian state, but that it should not interfere with the Jewish one.
"There are many, many places where a homeland for the Palestinians could in fact take place that would be consistent with their roots," he said. "But there is only one place on earth where the Jewish people could have a homeland that is consistent with their roots."
He emphasized that the international community agreed to recognize clear, definitive boundaries of a Jewish homeland in Israel as early as 1919.
"We have a moral obligation to the Jewish people to honor the commitment that has been made through decades and decades of understanding that there is going to be a homeland for the Jewish people," he said.
"The question shouldn't be 'Do Arabs have a right to live in Jewish territory,'" said Gov. Huckabee, "but, 'Do Jews have a right to live in Jewish territory?'"
"To say that Jews can't live in Jerusalem is the equivalent of telling the Boston Red Sox they can't play in Fenway Park. Obviously, that would never go over very well on Beacon Hill."
Right-click here to download interview with Gov. Huckabee
The visit is the brainchild of New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Jewish Activist Dr. Joseph Frager, with backing by Jerusalem Reclamation Project.
"In terms of the deepest roots and attachment to the land of Israel, Mike Huckabee really wins out," Dr. Frager said. "He is more than happy to learn firsthand what actually is going on, which is all I ask any political figure to do in America."
Hikind praised Gov. Huckabee's honesty and realism.
"I wish that Jewish leaders would speak so clearly, so unequivocally," he said. "Here's a guy who says, 'Yes, I'm for a Palestinian state,' and then says, 'but in Saudi Arabia.'"
Right Click Here To Download Interview with Hikind
At the tail end of his Jerusalem tour, Gov. Huckabee toured Zedekiah's Cave, that is, King Solomon's ancient quarry and probable site of King Zedekiah's escape route from a besieged Jerusalem just before the First Temple was destroyed. Here, underneath the Old City of Jerusalem, the governor was met by a re-enactor playing the part of a sullen Jeremiah who has witnessed the destruction of his beloved city. However, Jeremiah recounts that though the destruction has occurred, God has promised to return the Jews home yet again, and that the sounds of joy will be heard in Jerusalem:
"Thus saith the Lord: Yet again there shall be heard in this place, whereof ye say: 'It is detroyed, without man and without beast,' in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are destroyed, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say: 'Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endureth for ever,' even of them that bring offerings of thanksgiving into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captivity of the land to return as at the first, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 33:10-11)
Photos: Sasson Tiram