THE BLOG
01/03/2017 12:12 pm ET Updated Jan 03, 2018

Hollywood Stars Welcome New Year In Jerusalem

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Sonequa Martin-Green visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Shauli Lendner, America's Voices in Israel

A group of Hollywood stars from hit American TV shows, The Walking Dead, Dexter, Lost and Hawaii Five-0, traveled across Israel, visiting different sites and communities during a one-week mission trip from December 27 to January 2. Israel's Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy sponsored the visit in cooperation with America's Voices in Israel and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan who arranged the trip.

"We have decided to counteract the smear campaign against Israel, led the BDS movement, by building bridges between people from different cultures and backgrounds, and allowing them to experience and share their first-hand experience in Israel," commented Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

"It was a phenomenal trip," said Sonequa Martin-Green of The Walking Dead in an interview with Tazpit Press Service. "There are no words to describe the breathtaking views and people and the rich history that we experienced here."

The 31-year-old actress who also played in Once Upon Time and in The Good Wife, was surprised to find that people recognized her during the trip from her role as Sasha Williams in The Walking Dead. "I didn't realize how global The Walking Dead has become and that people would recognize me in Israel."

The mission included TV star Meagan Good from the NBC drama series Deception. Good was joined by her husband, prominent author, film producer, preacher, and motivational speaker DeVon Franklin. Daniel Dae Kim, formerly of ABC's Lost and current star of CBS's prime time drama Hawaii Five-0, participated with his wife Mia Dae Kim and children. Mark Pellegrino, known for his roles in Supernatural, Dexter, and Lost was joined by his wife, film director Tracy Pellegrino.

During the trip, the celebrities met with Israeli policy makers and locals, and toured strategic, religious, and historical sites including Old Jaffa, Masada, Tiberias, Nazareth, ancient Cesarea, the Sea of Galilee, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the Old City of Jerusalem.

One of the highlights of the trip for Martin-Green, was the visit to the desert town of Dimona in the Negev and meeting with the Black Hebrew Israelites, the community of African Americans, mostly from Chicago who arrived to Israel in 1969.

"After this trip, I will bring back home the necessity of embracing other cultures and how we are enlarged as a result of that," she told TPS.

Martin-Green, who has recently been cast as the lead in the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, also said that it was special to bring in the New Year in Israel.

Pellegrino told TPS that he has always been a strong supporter of Israel. "It's been a very enlightening and spiritual trip," said Pellegrino, who described himself as an atheist. "To support Israel means going beyond the surface to understand the context. I believe that much of Hollywood is confused about Israel."

"Israel is a force of good in the world," Pellegrino said. "This trip totally reinforced my admiration of this country."

America's Voices in Israel, a project of The Conference of Presidents, organizes week-long missions to Israel for prominent figures, including leading journalists, prime-time media and Hollywood TV stars, as well as religious and political leaders in the Latino and African-American communities.