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Congressman Faleomavaega and Pacific Island Leaders return from Israel



Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2008) – Congressman Faleomavaega led a delegation of Pacific Island leaders who attended an intensive educational program hosted by the Foreign Ministry of Israel and Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee. Also attending the program were Pacific Island Ambassadors to the United Nations – Ali'ioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Samoa; Masao Nakayama of the Federated States of Micronesia; Fekitamoeloa Utoikamanu of Tonga; Mason Smith of Fiji; Rina Tareo of the Republic of the Marshall Islands; Marlene Moses of the Republic of Nauru; Stuart Beck of the Republic of Palau; and Evelyn Beck, Counselor, UN Mission, from the Republic of Vanuatu. Faleomavaega was a keynote speaker at the program which was held in Israel from January 4-12, 2008.

The program resulted from discussions Faleomavaega had with the American Jewish leaders after the Pacific Islander Conference of Leaders held in Washington, D.C. in May of 2007. Faleomavaega explained that the purpose of the meetings were to discuss ways to advance the relationship between Israel and Pacific Island nations. The leaders also discussed climate change, renewable energy, aquaculture, healthcare advancements, and security in the Middle East.

"Pacific Island nations are facing serious challenges as a result of climate change and rising energy costs," said Faleomavaega. "Given that Israel is known for its technological advancements in wind, water, and solar energy, and that Israel has also made important advancements in the desalinization process which is critical to Pacific Island nations that may face serious water shortages, we felt that an educational program and exchange would be a first step in developing a partnership for the future."

After visiting a 1200 acre aquaculture fish farm developed by the Israeli government, Faleomavaega praised fish farmers in American Samoa and Palau who are raising tilapia and grouper fish respectively. According to Faleomavaega, the marine aquaculture industry is estimated to be at $6 billion and that it is a viable industry for Pacific Island nations.

The trip concluded with a visit to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.