At a time when anti-Israel sentiments and BDS seem to be sweeping across the United States, the city of Somerset, Kentucky is fighting to build strong relationships with Israel – if mayoral candidate Alan Keck has anything to say about the matter.
If Keck receives the mayoral vote, he has expressed interest in developing a “sister-city” program between Somerset and Israel, something which does not yet exist in the state of Kentucky. Keck, a member of the AIPAC National Council, recently returned from a trip to Israel with the intent of fostering cultural and economic partnerships between his hometown and their Israeli counterparts.
Keck had first visited Israel back in October 2015, and the opportunity to visit holy sites and heritage locations spoke deeply to his Christian faith.
On his recent trip, Keck spent three days meeting with a multitude of Israeli businesses and NGOs. The goal of his visit was to bring Israeli companies, technology, and manufacturing to the “Great State of Kentucky”.
A long-time bourbon enthusiast, one of the highlights of Kent’s trip was sampling several of the products over at Milk & Honey distilleries, Israel’s first whiskey distillery. Though their first batch of whiskey will not be ready for several more months, the distillery produces a number of other spirits using special aging techniques designed for Israel’s warm climate. Keck hopes that as the industry and demand grows in Israel, there will be greater collaborative opportunities with Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world.
Keck's trip was organized by Todd Wiesel, a former IDF soldier and an international whiskey expert who was intrigued by the idea of connecting the disparate regions through Kentucky's hallmark Bourbon.
"Whiskey is seeing massive growth across the globe, Israel is a leader in tech innovation and it will be exciting to see now with Israel developing its first distilleries how they will play a role in the future of distill-tech," said Wiesel.
The itinerary featured a visit to the Tel Aviv offices of Israeli Investor group HomRun, a start-up that builds relationships and connections between Israeli start-ups and American customers. Other meetings included touring Adir Winery in the North, to learn more about Israel’s agricultural technology and capabilities. Agriculture is a large part of the Kentucky economy, something that Keck hopes can help forge cultural bonds between the two states.
Keck had the opportunity to stop by the StandWithUs offices to learn about their mission of educating others on the reality of life in Israel. He dropped in at the Lone Soldier Center in order to explore the experiences of American volunteers serving in the Israeli army.
“We quickly formed a friendship based on common values of support for the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); religious values shared by Alan and our organization,” said Lone Soldier Center official Michael Domb of the meeting. “We will continue to develop our relationship with Alan by helping to provide Israeli solutions to assist economic growth in Kentucky… our common values [are] an obvious starting point for Alan to pursue economic and political cooperation with Israel.”