San Diego and Israel have at least one thing in common: border troubles.
So, although the degree of the difficulties may be a bit different, assistant sheriff Patricia Duke set out earlier this year for the besieged country for "training and networking on border security issues."
A sheriff's captain took advantage of a similar junket last month.
Duke's nine-day trip, costing a total of $10,337, was paid for by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC for short — according to a disclosure sheriff Bill Gore's office filed this summer.
According to her profile on the sheriff's website, Duke, assistant sheriff since 2011, runs the department's Law Enforcement Services Bureau, which "provides general and specialized law enforcement operations," the sheriff's website says.
AIPAC set up the U.S. law-enforcement training program last year, according to a news release posted by Utah County sheriff James Tracy:
"Israel has been preparing for and responding to terror attacks for 50 years. Our goal is to ensure that U.S. law enforcement and first responders have the opportunity to learn from Israel's vast experience in this critical area. This trip is an important part of AIPAC's new homeland security initiative," said AIPAC Board Member Harriet Zimmerman.
San Diego sheriff's spokesperson Jan Caldwell said this year's trip hosted a number of law-enforcement officers from U.S. border cities.
AIPAC was not the only group to help Sheriff Gore with the training of his troops. According to a November 15 disclosure, the Anti-Defamation League coughed up $5500 for Cpt. Michael Barnett's nine-day Israel trip last month for the ADL's so-called Western States Counterterrorism Training Seminar.
A post last month on the league's website by San Diego regional director Tammy Gillies described the tour:
I have the honor of leading the ADL Western States Counterterrorism Seminar and will be spending the next 7 days on a journey through Israel with 15 law enforcement executives from all over California and Washington.
We began our trip with a delicious and informative dinner on the top floor of our hotel with a magnificent view of the walls of the Old City.
We learned how the [Israel National Police] works with the [Israel Defense Forces], the Mossad, and Shin Bet and how everyone must put their egos aside to work together. As the Brigadier General told us, “we learned by blood that we must work together.”
The next day, it was up early for the U.S. law enforcers and a session on handling the news media.
Our day continued at Mabat 2000 in the Old City with a fascinating briefing from Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesman for foreign media, Israel National Police. We learned about the role of media in times of crisis and the importance of the role of media vis a via [sic] security.
During its tour, the group hit several border stops:
...We made our way to the beautiful Assaf Winery where one or two group members seemed prepared to hang up their badges and work for the Assaf family making wine in this beautiful part of the world.
After a fantastic lunch and wine tasting we asked the owner how he feels about being so close to the Border. He only half-jokingly told us that he feels he is so close that the rockets will go right over them. What a way to live?
In a subsequent post, Gillies wrote:
After a wonderful dinner with our friends from the IDF and the Israeli National Police, we headed to the Dublin pub, a fantastic Irish Bar in Jerusalem. It was a fun evening of getting to know each other better and sharing thoughts about the past few days.
The next day it was time for a meeting with the commander of the Eilat police station, but not before another reportedly tasty repast.
After a fantastic Italian style lunch with about 8 different types of pasta and pizza at the delicious Pastory restaurant, Commander Cohen takes us to the Border Police Station at Taba, and then on to the Border crossing.
Standing at the checkpoint at Taba, we see the Egyptian and Israeli flags just feet apart.
You can literally have one foot in Israel and one in Egypt. We are told by Commander Cohen that it takes a terrorist merely 3 minutes on a jet-ski to get from the shores of Aqaba, to the shores of Eilat. Seeing firsthand the closeness of Israel’s neighbors is truly eye-opening for our group!
Wrote Gillies as the tour concluded:
As we had our closing dinner, we reflected on our experiences and the journey we had taken together.
As one Police Chief says, “This trip has completely changed my perspective on Israel. Not that it was bad, but I didn’t care much because I had no reason to care. This has changed forever.”