Milstein Fellow – their AIPAC Story [1/3]
I was excited to attend the AIPAC policy conference for the first time this year. I have wanted to attend the conference ever since my older brother first went five years ago. Since then, I have watched my two sisters join with him in DC every April. I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn. In middle school, my interest in politics grew and was heightened during the 2016 Presidential elections. Although I understand many key political issues, I came to the Conference knowing very little about American-Israel politics. I’m proud to say attending AIPAC opened my eyes and taught me so much about Israel, its policies, and its relationship with the world.
I learned how American farmers have used technology developed in Israel, how Israel’s relationship with the UN has changed over time, and how Israel interacts with its unfriendly neighbors. Additionally, I learned that America funds much of Israel’s defense spending to protect themselves from the rockets that Gaza receives from terrorist organizations. I am happy to know money collected from American taxpayers help support Israel and the Jewish homeland. I really appreciated the breakout session called the “Threat to Israel from Gaza,” where I learned about the different perspectives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, I am fascinated by Israel’s ingenuity and therefore loved the innovations displays. It’s amazing to know that Israel is using technology to help reclaim themselves as a nation that wants to help the world, not destroy it. For example, Israeli innovators have created a software/device that allows people to control their phone cursor with their own head movements. This technology enhances the lives of those with paralysis by giving them the chance to perform functions they would not have been able to do otherwise. Seeing the amazing uses of technology has made me even more interested to get involved.
My favorite part of the entire conference was the special general session open only to Campus Delegates – students from high schools and college campuses across the world. I appreciated being able to share my experiences of anti-Zionism on campus with fellow students. More importantly, though, it was eye-opening for me to see other students just a few years older making such great impacts on their college campuses.
Beyond what I learned in the sessions, however, this conference was so meaningful. After making friends with similarly passionate teens, developing the skills to combat BDS on campus, and discussing how to live my life peacefully and effectively as a pro-Israel student, I feel more comfortable and prepared to engage in my high school and on my future college campus.
Ultimately, my time at the AIPAC policy conference inspired me. Being surrounded by so many Israel advocates really put my support for Israel into perspective, as it showed me that I am fighting for something so much bigger than anything I previously imagined. I am proud that I now have the skills to fight for the existence of Israel, a country I feel more connected to than ever before. Now, I have the confidence to share my experiences, both at the Conference and on Capitol Hill where I lobbied my senators and congressmen, with my community, my teachers, and my friends.
It is only fitting that when I returned home from AIPAC just a few days ago, I met Ido, my Los Angeles Hebrew High School Partnership exchange student, for the first time. For me, Ido represents more than just a friend; he represents the culture, the history, and the diversity of Israel. Ido validates everything I learned to stand for at the policy conference in DC.
None of this would have been possible without the support of the Milstein Foundation. I am incredibly thankful that the Milstein Foundation gave me the chance to explore my position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how I can make an impact in my surrounding communities.
Attending AIPAC was one of the best decisions I ever made and one of the best opportunities I have ever been given!
Written by a Far West USYer