To me AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] served as a break. It was a break from the partisan arguments between the Democrats and Republicans. It was a break from false and negative news about Israel. It was a break from worrying about the future of Israel. The power of over 18,000 people from different religions, ethnicities, races, colors and political beliefs all sharing the same love and support for Israel gave me hope (tikvah) for the future of Israel.
It was speaker Dr. Arthur Brooks who made me realize that contempt was not always a bad thing. He said, “You are supporters of AIPAC. You are supporters of Israel. And you’re supporters of America. And you will be treated with contempt for these things. Thank G-d for that contempt. Because this day forward you can answer that contempt with love and warm-heartedness, changing your own heart.”
Israel’s existence has always been met with controversy as its enemies try to eradicate it. In recent days this too has been the case at the AIPAC conference. My friends and I tried hard to respond with love and kindness and not engage in counter arguments as protesters bashed Israel and lied about Jewish history. We simply walked away smiling. In fact, we did what Dr. Brooks said to do. We used the protesters’ hate and negative opinions as inspiration to work harder and to continue to stand up for what we believe in. We are committed to the strong bonds between America and Israel and are willing to do everything we can to protect them.
The most powerful moment for me was when my fellow friends, teachers, rabbis, and neighbors from the state of Georgia went together to Capitol Hill to lobby our representatives in Congress. Lucy McBath, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia’s 6th congressional district, accepted our requests and shared her strong support for Israel. She also shared her excitement for her first trip to Israel later this year, where she wants to “touch, feel, and taste Israeli culture” and learn more about how she can be a partner in peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
At the end of the meeting, I was able to stand up and thank her for her support for Israel. I spoke of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, which in English means “to repair the world.” I told her that repairing the world, according to Jewish values, was not only recycling, planting trees and reducing our carbon footprint, but also having good relationships and making peace with others. I encouraged her to reach across the aisle and do everything in her power to support legislation in the future which would strengthen the U.S.-Israel bond and pave the way for peace between Israel and her surrounding neighbors.
In conclusion, AIPAC continues to work on its mission to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Speakers ranging from Conservative Republicans to progressive Democrats and everything in between spoke about their appreciation, love and support for Israel and their understanding that Israel must thrive as a nation and defend itself. Additionally, the audience applauded President Trump and his administration for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and just recently, officially recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
While AIPAC gave me hope that there will be a time when Israel will not be in war with her neighbors, I know it will take hard work to get to that point. I will continue to do everything I can with AIPAC and other organizations to promote peace between Israel and her neighbors and strengthen the U.S.-Israel bond because I, Max Ripans, STAND WITH ISRAEL!
Max Ripans is a junior at The Weber School. This was his first AIPAC policy conference. It was held last month in Washington, D.C.