Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Consul General of Israel Lior Haiat were featured speakers Thursday afternoon at the MSU Riley Center in Meridian. Other dignitaries who spoke at the event included Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden and Meridian Mayor Percy Bland. Bryant and Haiat, along with a representative from the America-Israel Friendship League, visited Meridian to promote the importance and potential benefits of a strong friendship between Mississippi and Israel. The AIFL is a non-profit organization that works to strengthen relationships between Americans and Israelis. “There was a story of a giant who came to challenge the nation,” said Bryant, who traveled to the Holy Land a few times. “Israel continues to stand in that battle, and Mississippi will stand with them in that battle.” “We hope Israel will come to know Mississippi as a place to visit,” Bryant said. Bryant also announced that representatives from various businesses in Israel will visit Jackson early next year. The governor described it as an opportunity to “join businessmen who want to do business here in Mississippi.” With growth in industry, science and technology, business continues to advance in Israel, and Bryant hopes to make Mississippi a permanent home for more of these industries. Hood spoke highly of the Israeli people, specifically about how mandatory military service produces mature young people. “They were maturing before they went to college,” Hood said. “They know so much more about our politics before even we do.”
The attorney general also delved into the state’s history and the role Jewish Americans played in the Civil Rights movement.
Hood, who in 2005 prosecuted the case involving the 1964 murders of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County, said many facts from the past are not in the history books. “In the sixties, there were people getting killed — and assassinations,” Hood said. “What I heard from history was that they were down here causing trouble… But they were doing God’s work here in our state. They were helping us.” Haiat said he was surprised to see Israelis doing so well in Mississippi, referring specifically to Emilia Resources in Kemper County. “That’s why we’re here — to build those bridges,” said Haiat, who agreed that a strong relationship with the United States and Mississippi was decidedly important. “Millions of our friends stand with us to defend Israel against our enemies… Being strong in the Middle East is not just an option, it’s the only option.”