THE HISTORY AND MISSION OF SISTER CITIES INTERNATIONAL
Our mission: To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.
Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.
Sister Cities International creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy.” Since then, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now President Trump have served as the Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International.
Since its inception, Sister Cities International has played a key role in renewing and strengthening important global relationships. Early partnerships included a trading relationship between Seattle, Washington and Tokyo, Japan, repairing post-WWII tensions by creating cultural and educational exchanges and, subsequently, lasting friendships. A 1974 study found that many early sister city relationships formed out of the post WWII aid programs to Western Europe. The relationships that endured, however, were based on cultural or educational reasons that developed lasting friendships. Sister Cities International improved diplomatic relationships at watershed moments over the past 50 years, including partnerships with China in the 1970s.
In the new millennium, Sister Cities International continues to expand its reach to new and emerging regions of the world. Today, it dedicates a special focus on areas with significant opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges, economic partnerships, and humanitarian assistance.
A LETTER FROM OUR SISTER CITY
Letter from Beit Shemesh Foundation
Keren Shemesh - the Beit Shemesh Foundation would like to welcome you to our city. We hope you will enjoy your visit and that you will return home with a new understanding of the challenges we are facing on a local and national level.
Beit Shemesh is mentioned more than 19 times in the Hebrew Bible and in this area Judah, Tamar, Joshua, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath walked. The men of Beit Shemesh recovered the Ark of the Covenant after the Philistine captivity. Some say that Stephen, the first Christian martyr was buried near here and that Rabbi Gamliel one of the teachers of Paul, lived in the area. Beit Shemesh sits among verdant vineyards, olive orchards and fields of wheat. We are surrounded by nature reserves, parks and archaeological sites.
Beit Shemesh is the youngest 4,000 year old city in Israel. Modern Beit Shemesh was founded in 1950, and today we have a population approaching one million, over 60% are under the age of 21. Beit Shemesh has a tradition of welcoming new immigrants. Over the years we have welcomed ingathering of the exiles from North Africa, Iraq, Iran, and Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America. Today we welcome immigrants from English speaking countries and Ethiopia.
In Beit Shemesh scientists research cutting edge solar energy technology and live side by side with people who have just been introduced to the modern world. Our city is a microcosm of Israel with all the challenges and blessings.
ABOUT OUR SISTER CITY
For over three thousand years, from the Biblical, to the Talmudic, to the Byzantine Christian eras, the city of Beit Shemesh has been recorded and described in a variety of developments. Centrally located between the Judean hills and the coastal plains, and strategically situated on the road to Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh easily lends itself to a prominent place in history. Its green forests, lush nature reserves and carefully tended farmlands, together with a comfortable climate, have geared it towards prominence. Its proximity to both Jerusalem, in one direction (a 25 minute drive), and to Tel Aviv, in the other (35 minute drive), are additional contributing factors to its popularity. In the past decade, the modern Beit Shemesh has undergone unprecedented development and growth.
Numbering today approximately 85,000 residents, Beit Shemesh is broadening its varied demographic population. Joining those originally from Romania, Iraq, Iran and Morocco, there are now also Sabras, Russian, Ethiopian and Anglo-Saxon immigrants. Twenty percent of Beit Shemesh residents are new immigrants who have arrived within the last six years. The make-up of the Beit Shemesh community is not only varied, but also very young. Sixty percent of the city's residents are under the age of twenty-one, while over seventy-five percent are under forty years of age.
Education in Beit Shemesh is given very high priority, as it is seen as the key to success for the community as well as for the individual. This is expressed in the extensive formal educational network in the city, together with the varied informal educational activities that take place throughout the city. Many of the recent immigrants are educated, and professionals in their fields. As they have become involved in the educational system via their children or as teachers, their expectations and input have resulted in raising the levels of the schools. There are a variety of kindergartens, elementary and high schools, which include secular and religious Streams, as well as Torani, and ultra -Orthodox They offer a number of different specialty tracks. Additional high school options are an Ulpana for girls and Yeshivot for boys. Integration for children with special educational needs is available, as are enrichment programs which are extensively developed.
A pedagogic center serving the educational staff, offers teaching- aid materials, courses and additional study opportunities.
Culture and Services
Cultural and youth groups overlap with education in providing a broad spectrum of activities for the city's youth. In addition to the youth group activities of Bnei Akiva, Scouts and Ezra, the Municipality provides sporting facilities and instruction in basketball, judo, Kung Fu, karate and tennis, as well as other sports.
The Music Conservatory, in its yearly program of introducing, and substantially subsidizing lessons in different musical instruments, has proven very successful in teaching children an important skill and appreciation of music.
As the largest city in the area, Beit Shemesh serves as a medical and cultural center for the many kibbutzim, moshavim and small towns in the area. This has resulted in a higher degree of professionalism, as well as a wider variety of services. Public facilities include municipal libraries, neighborhood cultural centers with science and art programs, concerts and plays, as well as synagogues and religious communal involvement. These services, together with shopping centers and supermarkets, offer residents extensive consumer opportunities.
Due to its central location, Beit Shemesh can offer many employment opportunities. Easy accessibility to Jerusalem and TeI Aviv, make working in these areas a viable option.
Constant road development continues to improve traveling options to these cities, and others. In Beit Shemesh itself there are three industrial areas, which include a variety of local industrial companies and manufacturers in metals, electricity, electronics and food production. Additional work possibilities exist in nearby tourist sites, other industries and on surrounding kibbutzim and moshavim.
Beit Shemesh boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. It also takes pride in the growing number of cottage industries that many local women have initiated. There are also a number of business opportunities and job openings in local education, as well as other technical and communal support systems.
As a result of the rapid population growth, the city is in the midst of intense development, with thousands of housing projects at various stages of completion. A great variety of sizes, prices and styles are available, as new neighborhoods are established, and existing ones expanded. Options for second-hand housing in older neighborhoods, as well as rentals, are also available. Each neighborhood includes local services such as kindergartens, schools, synagogues and a commercial center.