This week Hebrew Academy AIPAC Club President Michal Cohen attended her last AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. with a delegation of 6 students and history teacher Mr. Matla. Michal, who will graduate this June, reflects on her time with AIPAC and her final conference as a member of the Hebrew Academy delegation.
When I first moved back from Israel, I was a scared little freshman who did not know her left from her right. I knew about the dangers that Israel faces everyday, but I didn’t know that I had the ability to do something about it. Then, in 10th grade, Hailey Dobin (class of 2016), invited me to join AIPAC. At first, I didn’t really understand what it was, but I said “why not?” That first meeting was the start of a long love for AIPAC. I realized that the American-Israeli relationship is not only important to the state itself, but to the world. I knew I wanted to get more involved.
In 11th grade, I went on my first two AIPAC trips. To say the least, those trips changed my life. I met so many kids like me who want to see a better future for Israel. This issue does not only affect adults, it affects teenagers as well.
When I lived in Israel, I witnessed firsthand two Israeli Defense Force (IDF) operations: Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. In 2014, I lived in Ramat Gan, in a small neighborhood by the Yarkon Park. When the war broke out, the IDF set an Iron Dome missile platform right by my house. Even though I was woken up at six o’clock every morning by missiles, I always knew I was safe because of the Iron Dome.
When I started to get more involved with AIPAC, I learned more about what they do to help Israel receive money from Congress. I discovered that the U.S. government helped fund the Iron Dome for Israel.
In my senior year, I had the ability to go to AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. as President of the AIPAC club in school. As I watched Benjamin Netanyahu on stage, talking about the amazing accomplishments of Israel, I found myself empowered to become a greater leader to my school and community. The theme of this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference was choose to lead, and as Warriors for AIPAC President, I felt myself drawn to the conference and the message.
During the conference, every politician who spoke recognized the more than 3,000 students who came to the conference. Every single one of them realized that people of my generation are the ones who are going to change the world. Every time we speak out we make a difference, whether it is the kids here in Florida who are standing up for themselves, or the kids, just like me, who are educating the world about the importance of the American-Israeli relationship.
Although there are many student activists, there are not enough when it comes to facilitating and recognizing the importance of the American-Israeli relationship, and many politicians realize this.
“The fact of the matter is, too many of our younger generations don’t share the devotion to Israel that our generation have,” said U.S Senator Charles Schumer. “That’s a problem, we have to face it and deal with it. It’s not an issue with AIPAC. We have thousands of students here who go home and spread the word of Israel. Students, stand up, we want to applaud you.”
He continued to say that too many young Americans don’t know the harsh history of Israel. They have not seen her being attacked time and time again. They have only seen her in her recent strength. The truth is, if Israel would be weak for just a second, she would be wiped off the map instantly.
During the conference, I met many students from different backgrounds who understand the importance of this relationship and know that we, as students, have a responsibility to educate our peers and the community to this fact. I learned that this is not a Jewish problem, but a world problem. Israel does not only affect the Jewish community, but it affects Christians, Muslims, women, men, children, etc. Through AIPAC, I learned the importance of Israel not only in a Jewish sense, but in a worldly one.
As I finish up my presidency of AIPAC at Hebrew Academy, I have realize that this union helped me become closer to Israel in my own way and become more knowledgeable to the issues surrounding it. Most importantly, I was shown how I, and other high school students, can become an ambassador for the American-Israeli relationship, and truly make a difference.
By: Michal Cohen (12th Grade)