Jerusalem's deputy mayor, Naomi Tsur, is on a mission to create a green link between her city and Philadelphia.
As the head of sustainability in the office of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Tsur doesn't deal with security, politics or religious tensions. Instead, her portfolio focuses on issues such as climate change, recycling and planning for a healthier, environmentally sound future.
By the end of the 21st century, "90 percent of the human race will be living in cities," she said in an interview during a recent visit here. "Cities are responsible for their country's carbon footprint."
In a meeting earlier this month with Mayor Michael Nutter, she called attention to a recent "Memorandum of Understanding" that Jerusalem has signed with Chicago to focus on areas of joint cooperation.
Nutter — who created the office of sustainability shortly after his 2008 inauguration — said he is considering getting involved in something similar with Jerusalem.
Tsur said that both cities could benefit from sharing and exchanging information and programs.
The Chicago memorandum covers green planning and building, alternative transportation options, and clean and renewable energy efforts.
Nutter said that his staff was studying the Chicago agreement, and that he's very interested in "sharing best practices and forming cooperative agreements."
"Sustainability is a big issue all around the world. How do we protect our water, how do we create more open space?" Nutter asked in an interview, adding that "many of the same things we are talking about in Philadelphia, they are looking to do in Jerusalem.
"There are so many things that we could cooperate on and work together on," he continued. "My view is, if somebody has a good idea, and it can work in our city, then let's try and figure out how to make it work."
The mayor added that the two "talked about how cities are the innovators — or the incubators of innovation — if you will."
While Philadelphia does exchange sustainability tips with other cities, such a formal partnership would represent a first, said Nutter.
Going to Israel?
When he first won the mayoral election in 2007, Nutter expressed an interest in traveling to the Jewish state during his initial term. But he said that the recession — and one fiscal budget crisis after another — has kept him from making any trips abroad.
Still, the mayor said that he and Tsur discussed the possibility of him traveling to Israel in the next year, though nothing is firmed up yet.
"I am trying to get to Israel," said Nutter. A member of the West Carmel Baptist Church, he added that he is looking forward to "the opportunity not only to bring business to Philadelphia, open new markets for Philadelphia businesses internationally," as well as "the personal and religious experience of going to Israel, and to Jerusalem to visit the Holy Land firsthand."
Nutter said there are plenty of Philadelphia businesses that would like to have more of a presence in Israel and vice versa.
The mayor is set to face the voters both in a May primary — he's being challenged by Democrat Milton F. Street, former Philadelphia Mayor John Street's brother — and in the November general election. He is widely expected to be re-elected.
During the interview, Nutter said he has no plans to change his strategy in courting the Jewish vote.
"I do an extensive amount of outreach to every constituency, all the time, not just during an election season. Certainly, I have participated in any number of meetings and forums with a variety of Jewish organizations," said the mayor. "I'm going to continue to maintain good, close, working relations.
"Quite honestly, the African-American and Jewish experience and relationship over a long period of time is very important and significant in American history."