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HomeNewsboxCuomo, in Whirlwind Tour of Jerusalem, Shows Support for Israel

Cuomo, in Whirlwind Tour of Jerusalem, Shows Support for Israel

“If you really care, you show up,” he said. “And I really care.”

Still, during his daylong tour in Israel, Mr. Cuomo seemed to delicately embrace the idea of being an American statesman commenting on broader national themes. He called anti-Semitism a “social cancer” on underlying American ideals and spoke about its economic and social roots as evidenced in the November election.

“There’s an anger, and the anger often comes out as a fear, and fear can generate ugliness,” he said. “And that’s what we’re seeing.”

While such conclusions have been part of the governor’s recent speeches in New York, they found a new and eager audience in Jerusalem, which included Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, who said that Mr. Cuomo’s “arrival to Israel in this time is an extremely important signal that the U.S. people, that the government, will not let anti-Semitism win.”

That arrival came together suddenly: Mr. Cuomo announced his trip with little warning on Wednesday morning, sending his staff and his schedulers into a frenzy of planning. The resulting schedule was as packed — seven events in eight hours — as it was brief. Arriving on Sunday morning and leaving on Monday just after midnight, the governor was in the air for nearly twice as long as he was actually in Israel. (Not that he could leave Albany completely behind: The governor used his lunch hour to discuss the state’s budget, according to his office.)

The whirlwind tour included meetings with many of Israel’s political figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, like others on the agenda, had juggled his schedule to find time for Mr. Cuomo. In the end, the two met Sunday evening, sharing a hug and a bit of banter.

“Let’s go over to the flag,” Mr. Netanyahu said to the governor, pointing to a pair of flags — Israeli and American — in a conference room. “You know which one is yours?”

Most of that meeting and several others were closed to the media, although most included photo opportunities, which some critics in Albany complained about on social media, deriding Mr. Cuomo as opportunistic. Still, the governor defended the trip — which was paid for with state funds — as a vital show of support for Jews, both in Israel and in New York.

“This is repugnant to every tenet and principle of being a New Yorker,” he said of anti-Semitism while speaking at a lunch with business executives, adding, “You can’t grow up in New York without feeling a cultural closeness to the Jewish community.”

To be sure, New York’s role is difficult to overstate; it has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel, and the recent desecration of cemeteries and the scrawling of swastikas has become a staple of news in New York, and in the United States more broadly. The governor’s visit was welcomed by many, it seemed.

“He’s being human,” said Josh Brook, 25, who was leading a group of students in the Old City. “And that’s a very important thing.”

Mr. Cuomo began the day with a tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, where he used the Hebrew word “hineini” — meaning “here I am” — to express solidarity with Israel. It was a gesture appreciated by Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general to New York, who thanked the governor for using the word and “coming in person.”

As Mr. Cuomo sprinted from event to event, he walked over the footworn stones in Jerusalem, visiting both the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall in less than an hour.

At the church, Mr. Cuomo, a Catholic, ducked into a tomb that is said to be where Jesus was buried. At the wall, he took a moment to pray. He also deposited a note in the wall, a tradition; its contents were unknown, although one online commenter wondered if it had something to do with Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, with whom the governor has feuded, and the famous Harlem deer, which died in captivity in December before it could be released upstate.

Mr. Cuomo also attended briefings on security and surveillance, drawing a crowd of curious onlookers after a set of flags — again, American and Israeli — was set up near a busy byway. As is more and more common, a reporter asked Mr. Cuomo a question that would normally be posed to the president: whether the United States embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Mr. Cuomo demurred, saying it was a question for Israelis, not Americans.)

As governor, Mr. Cuomo has often seemed less comfortable doing traditional retail politics — kissing babies and the like — than behind-the-scenes political horse-trading. But on Sunday, Mr. Cuomo showed several flashes of humor and emotion, including a tribute to Shimon Peres, the legendary Israeli prime minister and president whose son Chemi attended two of the governor’s events.

“I spend my life with people saying to me, ‘Oh, your father, your father, your father,’” Mr. Cuomo joked — referring to his politician father, Mario Cuomo — before presenting Chemi Peres with a proclamation declaring Shimon Peres Day in New York. “It gets old after a while, doesn’t it?”

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