April 17, 2024
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RKYHS Students Reflect on the AIPAC Policy Conference

Going to the AIPAC Policy Conference for the first time this year, we had no clue what to expect. Sure, we figured that we’d hear a few speakers and attend a couple of lectures, but it was so much more than that. The speakers weren’t merely speakers; they were dynamic and engaging individuals who had the audience hanging on to their every word. People like Mossab Hassan Yousef, son of the leader of Hamas turned Shin Bet spy, and NJ Senator Bob Menendez, fierce supporter of Israel, were among the most popular. The speakers were not just people who preached about the US-Israel relationship, they showed how this relationship was a mutually beneficial connection that is essential to the survival of both countries. From collaborating on security updates to advances in medicine, each country has amazing things to offer.

At a time when negotiations with Iran are in progress, the US-Israel relationship is more important than ever. Iran gaining nuclear power could have terrible consequences that could put Israel and the US in serious danger, and AIPAC showed how they must work together to prevent this from happening.

The breakout sessions were unique in that there was a session for everyone. Whether you had an interest in technology or the army, there was a session for you. At these sessions, people did not just sit and listen to speakers, they engaged them in active dialogue and posed intelligent questions, which the speakers were only too happy to answer.

Part of what made the Policy Conference so incredible was the atmosphere. The people that we normally socialize with—at school, synagogue, or Jewish youth events—are all very similar: white, modern Orthodox Jews, all with a strong affinity towards Israel. AIPAC was different. Every single person there—all 16,000—loved and supported Israel. But every person there was different. People of different religions, racial backgrounds, levels of education, and some like us were united for a common purpose: to show our love and support for Israel. There is something very special about being able to sit in a room with thousands of people and cheer as the Israeli Prime Minister walks onto the stage. Every person in attendance had different beliefs and upbringings, but believed that Israel deserved equality and support. We met lots of people and, even though we are teenagers, wherever we would sit down at the breakout sessions we engaged in conversation would engage with our neighbors. Everyone wanted to know where each person came from, and why they were there. It was fascinating and comforting to see that Israel has so many supporters, from all types of backgrounds.

One of the sessions that we went to was a movie called Body and Soul: The State of the Jewish Nation. The film was about how the Jewish people truly belong in the land of Israel, and cited support from biblical, archaeological, and legal documents. A line was said in the movie that really stuck with us: “We will no longer sacrifice our beliefs on the altar of political correctness.” This quote exemplified what the AIPAC Policy Conference of 2015 was really about. In such a tense time, with the pressure of needing a good deal with Iran to happen soon, it is unfortunate that Israel is not getting all the support it needs from the world. However, with the help and love of 16,000 friends of Israel, the US-Israel relationship will stay strong throughout the tough times ahead and remind the world that Israel is here and not going anywhere.

By Sara-Shifra Stone and Ariella Shua, RKYHS juniors

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