Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has just returned from Israel where he was a keynote speaker at an educational exchange for Pacific Island leaders hosted by the Foreign Ministry of Israel and Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee.
“The seminar was held as a result of discussions I had with American Jewish leaders, at the request of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, immediately following the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders held in Washington, D.C. last May,” Faleomavaega said. “The Majority Leader suggested that the American Jewish leaders meet with me given that I chair the Subcommittee that oversees U.S. foreign policies affecting Pacific Island nations.”
“The purpose of our meetings, which have been ongoing since last year, was to discuss ways to advance the relationship between Israel and Pacific Island nations.
Pacific Island nations are facing serious challenges as a result of climate change and rising energy costs and American Samoa has a unique role to play regionally and internationally in bringing together U.S. allies that are united in making a difference.”
“Given that Israel is known for its technological advancements in wind, water, and solar energy, and that Israel has also made important advancements in the desaltinization process which is critical to Pacific Island nations that may face serious water shortages, we felt that an educational program and exchange would be a first step in developing a partnership for the future.”
“This is why I agreed to agree to speak and participate in the program sessions, and I appreciate the Majority Leader’s support of this exchange,” Faleomavaega said. “This intensive, educational program was an excellent forum to meet directly with our Pacific Island leaders and top officials of the Israeli government. The program was held in Israel from January 4-12, 2008.”
“On behalf of the subcommittee, I want to thank our Pacific Island Ambassadors to the United Nations for participating. Participants included Ambassador Masao Nakayama, Federated States of Micronesia; Ambassador Fekitamoeloa Utoikamanu of Tonga; Ambassador Mason Smith, Fiji; Ambassador Rina Tareo, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Ambassador Marlene Moses, Republic of Nauru; Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau; and Ms. Evelyn Adams, Counselor, UN Mission, Republic of Vanuatu. I was especially pleased that Ambassador Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Samoa was also able to join the delegation in this visit to Israel.”
“In addition to renewable energy advancements, Israel has also made considerable advancements in aquaculture and our delegation was able to visit a 1200 acre aquaculture fish farm the Israeli government has developed to grow ornamental fish, and also fish for consumption. As I have said before, the ornamental marine aquaculture industry is estimated to be at $6 billion. On the consumption side, the U.S. imports more than $10 billion in seafood making fish farming a viable means for economic development in American Samoa and among our Pacific Island nations.”
“With this kind of market potential, I am appreciative that Dr. Gordon Grau, Director of Sea Grant Hawaii, has worked closely with my office to establish a Sea Grant presence in American Samoa. Our fish farmers are doing a good job growing tilapia, and I commend them for their progress. I also commend Palau for establishing a pilot program for raising the grouper fish, which is a highly valued fish throughout Asia. With further support from Israel, I am confident that we can develop a strong aquaculture industry that will benefit all of us.”
“Because Israel has also made healthcare advancements in diabetes, we are hopeful to find ways to bring these technologies home for the benefit of our people,” Faleomavaega said. “Hopefully, we can also begin to address other health care problems that are common to all Pacific Islanders.”
“Beyond renewable energy, aquaculture and healthcare, our delegation also discussed security issues in the Middle East and Israel’s unique role and historical importance to Christians and Muslims throughout the world. Our Pacific Island delegation visited the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane where we were moved by the sacredness of the experience. We passed through Nazareth where our Savior lived, where He was tried, and crucified. We visited His tomb where our hearts were filled with joy knowing that He lives and that He rose again on the third day.”
“Another touching moment was our visit to Capernaum, along the coastline of the Sea of Galilee, where the Savior is believed to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount. To this day, His teachings are a light for the world. We also visited the Holocaust museum and silently prayed that the world would never know such horror again.”
“I appreciate that Chairman Tom Lantos of the House Foreign Affairs’ Committee supported this important visit and, once more, I want to thank Majority Leader Hoyer, the second highest leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, for stopping over in American Samoa. Majority Leader Hoyer and I work closely together and have for nearly twenty years now. As a result of our friendship, the Majority Leader is well aware of our needs and fully supportive of my efforts in Congress to make sure American Samoa continues to get its fair share of federal funding. He is also supportive of my efforts to establish a solid partnership between American Samoa, Israel, and our Pacific Island nations, and this is why we spoke by phone during my visit to Israel, and prior to his arrival in American Samoa.”
“Again, I appreciate the Majority Leader’s visit and also I appreciate that many of my colleagues, whether Republican or Democrat, have always been willing to come to American Samoa at my request in a show of support for us. I am especially thankful for the continued support and prayers of the people of American Samoa, and I look forward to building a partnership with Israel that will benefit our people, and our brothers and sisters in the region, for years to come,” Faleomavaega concluded.