The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project



Judith Davidoff, The Capital Times, May 1, 2004

Jennifer Loewenstein first lived in Israel in 1963 as a child when her father was hired to play first trumpet in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, then under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.

She went back in 1981 as a junior in college.

Now a lecturer in professional communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Loewenstein has also recently lived in Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and traveled throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where she worked for five months in 2002 at the Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City.

At the Mezan Center, Loewenstein made contacts in Rafah, a city of about 150,000 people located in the Gaza Strip along the border with Egypt, which she visited in January with two other Madison residents. There she says she saw the terrible conditions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

She is now spearheading a movement to formalize a sister city relationship between Madison and Rafah. The proposal, before the City Council, has incited vociferous opposition from the Madison Jewish Community Council, which calls it “nothing more than a thinly veiled mechanism to bash the state of Israel.”

The group also calls it anti-Semitic.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has declined to support the proposal and the controversy has already caused one of the measure’s eight City Council supporters, Ald. …

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