This year's AIPAC Policy Conference was a powerful expression of true democracy. At last count, 13,000 people had access to the President of the United States, the President of the State of Israel, the Prime Minister of Israel, as well as the majority of members of the House and Congress and other policy makers. It is at once exhilarating and disconcerting. It is exhilarating because you see the power of a true democracy where the voice of the people is listened to, respected, and given a platform. It is disconcerting because the vast majority of the three days in Washington was spent talking about the nuclear threat of Iran. More about that later.
Below is a blog post from one of our participants, Danny Goldberg, a 9th-grader who attended the conference with his father, Mike. Danny and Karly Worth, who attended with her mother Pam, inspired us to institute a new initiative. As we speak, a handful of this year's delegates are arranging for scholarships for any high school Junior or Senior who wants to attend next year's AIPAC Policy Conference (March 4-6) with a parent. Enjoy Danny's blog.
Rabbi Karyn Kedar
Day 1 was absolutely fascinating. Starting my day at six thirty in the morning, and then going to the Walter Washington via the cleanest subway system in the world (the Metro.) While on the Metro my father and I met a few men from Philly who told us that this conference would change us forever and that we would be coming back for years to come. Little did we know how right they were. Once at the convention center we waited in a huge line just to get in to the building because President Obama and President of Israel Peres were going to speak. When we were in the building we had to go through another checkpoint this time operated by the Secret Service who truly do not screw around.
The ceremony for Shimon Peres was really emotional and interesting at the same time. And then came President Obama who spoke about his strong love for Israel, and how everything is on the table when it comes to Iran. After the morning plenary we went to a briefing on cyber terrorism. The speaker was a Major General from the Israeli army who is also the president of the Israeli Space Association. He said that there are now four places where battle can take place. The air, sea, land, and now the cyber world. This made me think that maybe somewhere down the line there will be a new branch of the our Defense department solely focused on Cyber Terrorism both defending and attacking. After this revealing briefing we attended a briefing on how the Iranian Government works, and an inside look at their politics. For this briefing AIPAC flew in a gentleman from Brussels to speak, and also flew in the world foremost expert on Iranian Politics. They talked about how the elite class in Iran is the clerics, and also the IRGC (Iranian Revolution Guard Corps.) They both said that the IRGC was much more afraid of Bush because they were convinced that he would attack them, but now they are not afraid of Obama at all because they believe he will not attack.
The next day we attended a briefing on the Israel and India relationship. Speaking to us were the deputy ambassadors from Israel and India. I learned that believe it or not Israel and India have many things in common. I also learned that Israel is the number one supplier of military supplies (weapons, bullets vehicles etc.) to India. I also learned that they work very closely when it comes to counter terrorism.
After that my dad and I went to a very controversial briefing on Evangelicals. Speaking to us were two famous reverends and a women's activist within the Evangelical Movement. They said that they love us (the Jews and Israel) because we are Gods chosen people, and when faced with the question of are we the Jews who do not recognize Jesus as our lord and savior going to hell. They responded by saying that they couldn't predict the future, but they would love to see us in heaven someday.
Later that night we had the Gala. Ironically enough the two men sitting next to us were Pastors from the south side of Chicago who happened to preach and sing at our congregation on MLK day. To see how much they loved Israel (one of them went to Israel this year and loved it) and how strongly they believed that the African American people and the Jewish people need to be closer because we as minorities have more things in common than most people think.
After talking to them the Eidan Reichal Project an Israeli fusion pop band performed the Hatikva which was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life. To have 13,000 people in a room black, white, Christian, and Jewish all united because of our strong love for Israel all sing the Israeli National anthem gave me the chills. When Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke he did so with an extremely respectable amount of class. The first ten minutes was spent thanking specific people in the room for their contributions to Israel, and AIPAC. He also talked about Senator Mark Kirk and wished him a speedy recovery. But that’s not all. He told us that he would not watch Israel get demolished and so he would protect it no matter what. This brought the audience to a standing ovation, which was one of about ten throughout his thirty minute speech.
Looking back I can conclude that missing school was 100% worth it! I loved the AIPAC Policy conference! I plan on coming back year after year for the rest of my life! It’s amazing to see how enthusiastic and bipartisan congressman and senators alike are when it comes to Israel, and you can read or hear all about it on the news or you can come to the AIPAC policy conference and witness this amazing relationship firsthand.