Stephen Harper travelling party reflects significance of Israel trip

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's official delegation to Israel and the Middle East this week is accompanied by more than 200 business executives, Jewish leaders and Christian representatives.

Delegation includes business executives, Jewish leaders and Christian representatives

Taxpayers are footing the bill for some of delegates accompanying Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his six-day Middle East tour. (Heidi Levine/Pool/Associated Press)

To grasp the significance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first trip to Israel, one might need only to look at the size and calibre of his accompanying party — 208 Canadians representing diverse businesses, Jewish organizations and community groups, plus an official delegation of 30 MPs, senators, officials and family.

Harper and his entourage arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday for the six-day Middle East tour. 

Canadians are footing the bill for the official delegation which travelled with the Prime Minister on government aircraft, including nine Conservative MPs, six cabinet ministers, three senators and the ambassador-delegate to Israel, among others. Opposition party members are not part of the delegation.

According to the prime minister's office, invitations were given to ministers from relevant portfolios and to stakeholders "who can help Canada strengthen its ties to the region."

Those stakeholders include some 30 business people and representatives of religious or community groups accompanying Harper's delegation who travelled on the prime minister's plane. By virtue of that arrangement, their travel expenses are covered by taxpayers.

The rest of the 208 "accompanying party" members paid their own way to get to Israel, according to the PMO. 

The full list includes executives from corporations such as Air Canada, Bombardier Inc., the Keg Steakhouse, as well as a handful representing leading law and financial firms.

Joining the business leaders are 21 rabbis and a number of representatives of Jewish organizations, including B'nai Brith (the oldest Jewish service organization in the world). The party also includes Christian groups, such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. 

Read the full list below

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