JBE in israel

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks with Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and others in the lobby of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Israel on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. 

JERUSALEM — Gov. John Bel Edwards is in Israel this week to hold meetings with business and government leaders about potential partnerships with Louisiana.

Edwards and a delegation of nearly two dozen people arrived in the Middle Eastern country early Saturday morning and is scheduled to return to Louisiana on Friday.

"Obviously, we are all excited to be here," Edwards said after touring Old Jerusalem. 'We're looking forward to a long and productive day (Sunday)."

The trip was at the invitation of Gilad Katz, the consul general of Israel to the Southwest United States.

After an over-night flight to Tel Aviv, Edwards and others traveled to Jerusalem to stay at the iconic King David Hotel. The group will spend the second half of the week in Tel Aviv.

While in Israel, Edwards will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government leaders in Jerusalem and meet with business leaders in Tel Aviv. Edwards also is scheduled to celebrate Sunday Mass at the historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre and participate in a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Edwards said he's excited to take part in meetings on energy and economic development opportunities for Louisiana.

During a dinner marking the delegation's first day in the Jewish state, Edwards asked for a moment of silence for the victims of a mass shooting at a synagogue back in the United States in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

With the group arriving on the Jewish Shabbat, most of the streets were empty for much of the day, as Edwards and others visited local holy sites, markets and other attractions.

"It was a beautiful day," Edwards said of his first 24-hours in Israel. 

The an economic development mission is largely focused on cyber security and business opportunities for Louisiana companies.

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 Interstate 20 as a "technology corridor."

Earlier this year, Edwards signed an executive order barring state agencies from doing business with any company that takes part in a boycott of Israel.

The order came after Katz visited the State Capitol.

Edwards, a Democrat who took office in January 2016, 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.

Others on the Israel trip include first lady Donna Edwards, business leaders, higher education officials from multiple Louisiana universities and the state's cyber security experts. An Advocate reporter and a local television reporter are with the group to report on the mission.

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

He joins a long list of governors who have made recent trips to Israel, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Edwards is expected to take part this week in signing for memorandums of understanding that can further work with the Water Institute of the Gulf with Israel's own water research institute.

He will also meet with energy leaders and businesses that focus on the energy and cybersecurity sectors.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.