Alabama Legislators and Israel Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon launch the caucus in Montgomery on May 8.

As the Alabama Legislature winds down its annual session, numerous legislators delayed heading out to an end-of-session party on May 8 to announce the formation of the Alabama-Israel Legislative Caucus.

Israeli Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon joined the legislators for a press conference launching the new group.

The bipartisan caucus consists of House and Senate members dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Alabama and Israel in political, economic, academic and cultural fields.

Co-chairing the caucus are Arthur Orr in the Senate, and Phillip Ensler and David Faulkner in the House.

Faulkner and Orr have been prominent in promoting pro-Israel resolutions and legislation for years, while Ensler, the only Jewish member, is new to the Legislature.

Alabama has a long history of friendship with Israel. The caucus logo acknowledges that history, with “1943” written above the image of the historic Capitol building. In 1943, Alabama became the first state to call for the establishment of a Jewish state in the ancient Jewish homeland.

There have been a series of economic missions over the years, along with a series of resolutions supporting Israel. Last month, Governor Kay Ivey signed a joint resolution supporting Israel in its war in Gaza and condemning Hamas and its supporters around the world.

Of the seven states served by Israel’s Atlanta consulate, Georgia and Kentucky also have Israel caucuses in their legislatures. On the national level, there is also a Congressional Israel Allies Caucus.

The Kentucky caucus, for example, issued statements following the Hamas invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 and the recent Iranian attack on Israel, and has urged presidents of public universities in the state to condemn Hamas.

“The establishment of the Alabama-Israel Legislative Caucus is a testament of the deep connection and friendship between the state and people of Alabama and the State of Israel,” Sultan-Dadon said. “At a time when Israel is fighting a war against a genocidal terror organization and those who seek the destruction of the Jewish state and people, the establishment of this caucus highlights the shared values and interests that unite Israel, Alabama and the United States. We are all made stronger by standing together for life, freedom and the values that we all hold dear.”

Ensler said he was honored to co-chair the caucus. “It is essential that Alabama and Israel maintain and further their strong bonds — particularly during these trying times for Israel and the Jewish people.”

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Ensler said those standing on stage were Republicans and Democrats, “supportive of Israel, supportive of Alabama having strong ties with the country, and furthering those ties… this is just the beginning.”

He said the caucus is “an opportunity to further that work, not just during challenging times like we are living in now, but certainly during good times that we are all praying and hoping will come in the near future.”

Faulkner said it was exciting and meaningful to launch the caucus the day after the state held its official Holocaust Remembrance ceremony. “We do lift up our prayers, we lift up the people of Israel, in what they are going through in the war that is taking place, and our prayers are with them constantly.”

Israel “has always been a special place in Alabama,” he added.

Orr commented that “this is long overdue, we should have done this years ago,” and he thanked Ensler for moving it forward. “Only good things can result” from the caucus and strengthening ties with Israel, he said.

Many of the legislators said they haven’t visited Israel yet and are hoping to soon, so the idea was floated about a group trip. Sultan-Dadon told them now is the time, not just to see the country, but as a show of support to the people.

One who has been to Israel several times, Rep. and Pastor Mark Gidley, spoke of visiting Israel as feeling at home, and said he is “thrilled to be part of this.”

Sultan-Dadon thanked the founding co-chairs. “We are at a point in time where there is much confusion where it shouldn’t be — confusion between right and wrong, confusion between good and evil. We are not confused, Israel is not confused… the state of Alabama, fortunately, is not confused either.”

She added, “Today is another step in a long journey of friendship and support between Israel and Alabama. As Israel celebrates, next week, 76 years of independence, we will do so with mixed emotions. Because of the Oct. 7 massacre, the ensuing war and the fact that there are still 132 hostages who remain still in brutal captivity in Gaza. But we will also celebrate with pride, because we know what it is we are fighting for.”

She said Israel will continue to write its story “together with our friends” in Alabama.