After serving in Congress for nearly 20 years, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia is set to make his first visit to Israel.
The Democrat is planning to fly out on Oct. 13 in order to speak at Israel’s first International Brain Technology Conference, which will be held at Tel Aviv’s refurbished port.
Funding for research on brain diseases has become one of Fattah’s top priorities in office.
“There is no more important issue. It is my No. 1 priority,” he said in an interview several days before his planned departure. “Fifty Million Americans are affected by various brain diseases and disorders.”
Fattah is known as a reliable supporter of military aid to Israel, though he has, at times, frustrated some right-wing supporters by signing congressional letters that have been backed by J Street, the dovish lobbying group for Israel.
The congressman said he is scheduled to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and receive a briefing from security officials on the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. The bulk of his 48 hours in the country are expected to be devoted to focusing on science and economic issues. He has also scheduled a meeting with a group of young Israeli entrepreneurs.
Fattah said that, when he first planned the trip, Congress was not expected to be in session. With the government shutdown ongoing, and the potential for key votes to come up at any point, Fattah said he couldn’t spend more time in the country.
In fact, he noted that if a vote is scheduled related to the government shutdown, he may have to deliver his speech and come right back home. But, Fattah said, he never considered canceling the trip.
“The work I am engaged in is so very important to the United States,” he said, adding that he’s especially excited to meet Peres, Israel’s elder statesman, “who has made neuroscience his principal scientific priority.”