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Governor John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards will travel to Israel later this month as part of an economic development mission with a focus both on cyber security and business opportunities for Louisiana companies.

Edwards, a Democrat who took office in January 2016, will leave Louisiana on Oct. 26 and return on Nov. 2. The trip schedule includes a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government leaders in Jerusalem on Oct. 28, as well as meetings in Tel Aviv with businesses. Edwards also is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre and participate in a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Center. 

The 24-person delegation traveling with Edwards will include first lady Donna Edwards, business leaders, higher education officials from multiple Louisiana universities and the state's cyber security experts, among others. An Advocate reporter and a local television reporter will travel with the group to report on the mission.

“It’s a great opportunity for Louisiana when we get such a high-level invitation to visit a key ally and meet with national officials and corporate executives to explore trade and partnership prospects,” Edwards said in a statement. “I am looking forward to building a framework for Louisiana to connect with Israel in oil and gas exploration and cyber security, as well as other fields, and I want to make it possible for Louisiana companies and organizations to follow up on the inroads we make with this trade mission. We are looking to establish relationships with the Israeli government and its private sector, and we will build on those relationships as we expand the markets for the goods and services that our Louisiana companies provide to the world.”

It will be Edwards' third major trip out of the country as governor. He previously traveled to Cuba to discuss trade opportunities and to the Vatican on an anti-human trafficking mission.

Edwards currently serves as co-chairman of the National Governors Association’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The NGA’s national cybersecurity conference will be held in Shreveport-Bossier City in May 2019, Edwards announced Thursday.

Jeff McLeod, director of the NGA’s Homeland Security & Public Safety division, will join Edwards on the trip to Israel.

Israel has become a key player in the global cyber security industry, which Edwards has made a focal point of his administration through the creation of a cybersecurity commission and proclamation of I-20 as a "technology corridor."

Gilad Katz, the consul general of Israel to the Southwest United States, had extended an invitation to Edwards to travel to the country.

"Louisiana and Israel share excellent relations and mutual interests in the areas of cyber security, energy and water," Katz said in a statement. "This visit is not only a representation of those excellent relations, but we hope will also be the springboard to new partnerships and collaborations that will have a lasting impact on both Louisiana and Israel.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.