A Hebrew Academy delegation of six students experienced a passion for Israel first-hand at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference this past week in Washington D.C.
Participants Jacob Lurie (12th grade), Jacob Rosmarin (11th), Tehila Moore (11th), Michal Cohen (11th), Samantha Ebner (9th), and Yael Bister (9th) traveled to the policy conference with History Department Chair Mr. Grant Matla on Sunday March 26th through Tuesday the 28th. Sixteen-thousand people came together, all of different ethnicities, races, and religions, uniting for one reason: Israel. Each session consisted of hundreds of men, women, Jews, Christians, Catholics, African-Americans, young, and old. It was an environment of pride and unity.
“There was a diversity to support Israel from all-over and not just Jews. Although it may be a Jewish state, it’s important for all countries and races to support Israel because that’s the population of the world,” said Tehila Moore. “Everyone together, from all over, will really make a difference and help strengthen the bond rather than just the small population of Jews.”
One contributor to the diversity was Mr. Matla, who chaperoned the student delegates. Although not Jewish, he values the importance of the State of Israel, and does his part to ensure the strong U.S. alliance with Israel.
“As a military historian, I’ve always recognized the value of having a strategic ally in the Middle East,” Matla said. “As I became more familiar with the culture, I grew to have a better, deeper appreciation for the State of Israel and America’s role with and for Israel on a global stage. On the political and military level I never lagged behind, but from a social and cultural aspect and getting down to a more realistic level of the issues Israelis face on a day-to-day basis, I had no idea.”
The Conference consisted of nearly two-hundred sessions headed by a distinguished line-up of speakers. From Nikki Haley and Chuck Schumer to Bob Menendez, and even all the way East to Netanyahu, attendees were given insight and understanding into the importance of the alliance, and advocacy at large. The main focuses of the Conference were the Israeli Anti-Boycott Act, methods of countering Iran’s regional aggression, ways of supporting security assistance to Israel in providing a robust foreign aid budget, and combatting the delegitimization of Israel. One of the the most popular speakers was Alan Dershowitz, law professor at Harvard University. His session covered the importance of fighting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, otherwise known as BDS, a movement that stands to delegitimize Israel. Dershowitz explained that the movement should be denoted as a tactic, because a movement usually stands to make change and they share a political or social idea, but BDS is a tactic because it is a strategy that will repeatedly fail.
Though the Conference was action-packed and extremely informant, attendees enjoyed themselves. Sessions were filled with imperative information as well as lighthearted fun.
“It was really cool. I was in a sea of like minded strangers. You don’t feel alone, everyone there has the same mindset as you,” said Jacob Rosmarin (11th).
Student takeaways from the amazing experience were overall positive. The importance of advocacy and AIPAC’s mission was successful. The State of Israel is not only of significance to the Jewish people, but to all religions. The union formed during Policy created a strong bond with everyone, no matter their background. Freshman Yael Bister felt strongly for the love and pride of Israel that pervaded throughout the Conference.
“The sessions I partook in proved that Israel isn’t only important for the Jewish people. Seeing many religions, all ages, all races, all ethnicities, all coming together for the same reason was really jaw-dropping,” Bister said. “The reason being, they want to protect Israel, secure Israel, and they want Israel to still be thriving as it is right now really created a sense of companionship. The spreading of the love for Israel was continuously shown and brought everyone in harmony. There are really no words.”
By: Samantha Ebner (9th Grade) with additional reporting by Raquel Zohar (10th Grade)