The American state of New Mexico has been expanding its contacts, investments and relationship with Israel. The expanded contacts have been both official and through private organizations in the southwestern state.

Last month, for the first time, New Mexico invested $10 million in Israel, in the form of Israel Bonds. State Governor Bill Richardson presented the check to Harold Albert of Albuquerque, chairman of Israel Bonds New Mexico, and expressed his support of Israel's security and economic well-being.

In addition, Governor Richardson has announced that New Mexico, in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Albuquerque, is planning a Business Mission to Israel this coming spring. Mission members will take part in a series of business meetings customized to the particular needs and interests of various New Mexico companies. Mission Chairman Morton Lieberman said that the delegates would focus on commerce, research and development, and collaboration in hi-tech, security, agriculture and water, and more.

Jewish Federation sources say that the re-opening of the Israel Office of the New Mexico Department of Economic Development has led to increased efforts to establish and enhance strong business ties between New Mexico and Israel, increasing New Mexico's exports and creating more jobs in New Mexico.

Another collaborative initiative to bring New Mexicans to Israel in 2004 is the Albuquerque Jewish/Christian Solidarity Mission to Israel, set for March. The local Jewish Federation, in conjunction with Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Albert and Bridges for Peace, is sponsoring the unique trip. Andrew Lipman, Executive-Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Albuquerque,

explained that the community trip to Israel "supports Israel financially. People who go on missions buy souvenirs, spend money in restaurants and generally help the Israeli economy. Beyond that, there is the solidarity aspect to it. Israel feels under attack from the rest of the world. By going there, support is shown for the country and its citizens."

Susie Sandager of Bridges for Peace called the Mission "cutting-edge," saying "there is support for Israel outside the Jewish community that needs to be embraced and directed." The delegates will visit many sites throughout Israel, including the Albuquerque Jewish community's Partnership 2000 communities, Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon.