Gov. Chris Christie told religious leaders Wednesday that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that stands up for the “bedrock” of US values.
The governor, who spent the Holy Week with his family in Israel and Jordan, said he was moved by displays of people celebrating different religions, and said it is an important lesson for Americans.
“Israel and the United States share the same values of freedom, liberty and everyone being allowed to worship as they see fit,” the governor said.
"I think that's sometimes what we forget about our relationship with Israel. We talk about the Middle East in a generalized way, but the only country that stands up for the values that are the bedrock of this country is Israel,” he said.
Speaking at the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center in Bridgewater, Christie also said that it is important that Jerusalem “remain under Israeli control.”
Christie said the trip brought a better understanding of the importance of security measures taken by Israel. He said he had the opportunity to speak to a major in the Israeli army, who showed him that Syria and Lebanon can be seen from the Golan Heights in Israel.
“That is extremely important for Israel,” he said. “I didn’t realize how important until I saw that.”
The governor said he concluded that Israel is going very well economically and that he is looking at ways to expand business from Israel into New Jersey. He said he spoke to pharmaceutical and other companies about bringing jobs here.
“To go to Israel and hopefully bring back jobs is great,” he said. “We gave good reasons why the environment is changing, and we have the best work force here.”
Christie said he met with representatives from Better Place, a company developing electric car technology, and answered a question about whether New Jersey should move forward with looking into that technology.
“We have to balance everything, the investment of the state and how well it would work,” Christie said. “We are having further conversations, but we were encouraged by this. Other energy sources are extremely important in New Jersey.”
Christie said he is hoping there will be more announcements in the coming months about ways of pairing the economic climate between New Jersey and Israel, which he said was one of his goals in going to the country. This was the first overseas trip of his term.
Christie is also planning to hold similar meetings around the state to discuss the trip.
Following his time in Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Christie said he spent the weekend with his family in Jordan, and met with King Abdullah II.
“I was impressed with what a man of good will he is,” Christie said.
Asked about the possibility of a Jewish Cultural Education Commission or some other organization to aid in providing Jewish knowledge in schools, Christie said he is concerned about adding more regulations in public schools.
“I want to free up educators to decide what they think is most important to impart to our kids,” he said, adding that the state already requires Holocaust education. “But we’re looking at it, and will probably say something before July."