Bethlehem has established a new sister city relationship with Corfu, the capital city of the Ionian Islands in northwestern Greece, the mayor’s office announced on Monday.
There are about 2,000 people of Greek heritage in the Lehigh Valley who initiated the desire to establish a sister city partnership, which will be formalized at a signing ceremony in Bethlehem on March 22, the news release from the mayor’s office said.
Mayor John Callahan will lead a delegation from Bethlehem to Corfu in June for a similar ceremony.
Corfu becomes Bethlehem’s fourth sister city. The city already has partnerships with Schwabisch Gmund, Germany; Murska Sobota, Slovenia, and Tondabayashi, Japan. Bethlehem and Tondabayashi will celebrate 50 years of sisterhood in 2014.
Agriculture and tourism are the city’s major industries. A resort city that once was very popular with European royals and elites, it is now a popular tourist destination for European middle-class families as well.
Corfu was the backdrop for part of For Your Eyes Only, the 12th James Bond movie, which was released in 1981.
Bethlehem and Corfu share similarities in population, tourism, a large European influence and a government structure of a mayor and city council, the news release noted.
A quick Wikipedia check reveals other similarities, including a rich musical tradition. Corfu is home to three prestigious marching wind bands – known as philharmonic societies.
Corfu is also a historic city, having been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a designation the Historic Bethlehem Partnership hopes to achieve for Bethlehem.
Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior recognized Historic Moravian Bethlehem – the original 1741 Moravian settlement – as a National Historic Landmark District.
At a recent announcement in Corfu, Greece, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Smith emphasized that the U.S. Embassy will be involved in promoting the Sister City Agreement assuring U.S citizens that notwithstanding recent economic difficulties, Greece is a safe place to visit and remains a popular tourist destination.