Three Houstonians Participate in Latino Leaders Mission to Israel
Date: December 20, 2012
Two prominent Latino leaders from Houston and a Houston ADL Vice Chair took part in ADL's 2012 Latino Leaders Mission to Israel in late November and early December.
Former State Representative Rick Noriega, who serves as President and CEO of AVANCE, a Texas-based national organization that supports families developing to their full potential through a variety of educational programs for parents and children took part in the trip along with Baldomero Garza, an attorney and national vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and ADL Board Vice Chair and Latino Outreach Committee Chair Joe Pryzant. All three said the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that helped bring them together, demonstrated to them the importance and complexities of Israel, and changed them.
There were 19 participants in all on the trip. They visited places of religious, political and historical importance and met with representatives from non-profit organizations, and the Israeli government. They also met with security analysts, Holocaust survivors, Israeli-Arabs, Israeli entrepreneurs and journalists, and they did it all in a week. "ADL certainly earned its moniker ALL DAY LONG," during the trip, said Pryzant, as he summarized his experience for ADL board members. Noriega agreed, "there wasn’t a spare moment in the trip whatsoever," he said, but he added "I really valued everything about the trip. Every minute of the trip….It was highly organized."
When asked what impressed them most, Garza, Noriega and Pryzant had very different responses. Garza said, "the can-do attitude of the people, building into the rocky hillsides and the staggered stone of the Western Wall."
Noriega said he had to put what impressed him into "buckets." He said, "I think what impressed me most on a personal level was the spirituality aspect of the old city. I don't think anyone can visit the old city regardless of religion and not feel a special something."
Pryzant he was most impressed by the resilience of Israelis, "living under constant stress and hardship…. We drove down to Ashkelon and saw the spent rockets at the police station. Then we listened to a high school student trying to lead a 'normal' life under the threat of 'dumb' missiles aimed solely as a terror weapon with no military objective. I also was impressed how the experience of the military and living under siege have molded an amazing creativity and zest for life with his, I believe, unmatched anywhere in the world."
They also agreed the trip changed them forever. "It moved me deeply," said Noriega, "recognizing the depth and importance of a group of people and faith that I have so much respect for."
Pryzant said it made him think about how "our people have never had a true refuge—until the current state of Israel—and how valuable organizations like ADL are."
Garza said he was changed by the opportunity to visit the seat of his own religion. "The stories of the Bible in the New Testament came alive. Walking in the steps of Christ was a renewal of faith. When I told my Mom," he said, "she was happy for me."
ADL has sponsored and coordinated a series of trips to Israel over the past three years as part of the agency's continuing efforts to enhance relationships with Latino Leaders and communities in the United States. If you'd like more information on the recent mission or know of somebody who could benefit from such a trip, contact ADL's Southwest Regional Office at 713-627-3490.