This year’s Hanukkah will be very different from the Hanukkahs of years past for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.Hogan spent much of the past week with the Jewish community from around the state. On Friday, he was at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School’s Lower School, where he addressed the entire campus. As a JDS graduate, I was proud to welcome the first governor to visit our school in a very long time.

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Hogan spoke about his work as Maryland’s governor, including his recent trade mission to Israel to begin the process of making its Negev region a Sister State of Maryland. In addition to his visit to JDS, Hogan had a Hanukkah party at the Governor’s Mansion this past weekend.

Hanukkah in Annapolis.
Hanukkah in Annapolis.

A few months ago I spoke with Bonnie Glick, the Chair of the Maryland-Israel Sister State Committee, when the trip’s members took off for the Holy Land to see what her expectations for the trip were. After Hogan’s visit, I checked in with Glick again to see what progress has been made since Hogan and his Sister-State Committee returned to Maryland.

What were some of the highlights of the trip for the Committee’s members?

The trip as a whole was fantastic, but some highlights from my perspective were visiting Yad VaShem, where Governor Hogan laid a wreath to commemorate those murdered in the Holocaust, visiting Hadassah Hospital’s shock trauma center, which I learned was actually based in part on the University of Maryland’s trauma center, traveling to the Negev to learn about potential areas for collaboration in cyber security, healthcare, and water reclamation, and finally, signing a Memorandum between the State of Maryland and the Negev Region establishing a Sister-State relationship.

What were some of the immediate ramifications of the trip?

The trip generated a lot of interest in Israeli companies investing in Maryland in the cyber-realm, as well as with Maryland companies interested in investing in Israel and collaborating with Israeli companies and universities.These areas of interest included water reclamation/reuse/recycling, healthcare, education, cybersecurity, and others. MOUs were also signed between the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus and Israeli universities. Additionally, the Israeli company Elta Systems that builds components of Iron Dome missile defense system opened its corporate headquarters in Maryland.

What do you see as the long term effects of this Sister-State relationship?

Since we returned to Maryland, there’s been a lot of interest from people around the state who are interested in fostering business and cultural ties between Maryland and Israel. Business ties could include business collaboration, investment, purchasing of Israel Bonds, sales, and joint research projects. Cultural ties could be in sports, dance, education, entertainment, travel, tourism, and exchanges.   

Why was the Negev selected to be Maryland’s Sister-State? What industrial, academic, and cultural links exist between Maryland and Israel’s southernmost region?

The Negev was a natural Sister State for Maryland for a wide variety of reasons. Its innovations in cybersecurity provide opportunities to collaborate between the Maryland-based National Security Agency, Ben Gurion University and various agricultural institutes there are natural counterparts for world-class Maryland schools to collaborate on environmental problems that will help us continue to preserve water systems such as the Chesapeake Bay, its wealth of historic locations including Abraham’s well in Beer Sheva mirror places like our own St. Mary’s City, and its cultural centers such as Eilat’s Coral Water Underwater Observatory are similar to our own incredible Baltimore Aquarium.

Why was Governor Hogan the governor who finally formally established a Sister-State relationship with the Negev?

The governor saw the importance of formalizing a relationship between Maryland and Israel because of the strong ties that already exist and because it is a good economic driver to show that his Maryland, which is now open for business, is actively courting export markets and partnerships which previous governors hadn’t done. Under his leadership, Maryland has moved from the 49th worst economy in the United States and it keeps going up. Currently resides at spot #11. Hogan wants to continue seeing international companies such as Elta Systems start and continue investing in Maryland’s economy and people. Additionally and highly significantly, Governor Hogan voiced strong opposition to the BDS movement at every stop on his Israel journey. He consistently and genuinely spoke of Israel as our strongest partner in the Middle East and the region’s only democracy.