This past Yom Kippur I sat in temple, with an empty stomach and a little bit of a caffeine headache, listening to Michael Sachs’ annual update on Israel and AIPAC. I got that all too familiar feeling that I had been uninformed and silent for way too long. So, with the Rabbi’s call to engagement ringing in my ears (“Join an organization, any organization”) I decided to join AIPAC and committed to myself I would attend the conference in March. I am so glad I did.
Israel’s position in the middle east has always appeared precarious. Yet here she sits, progressive, awash in dialogue and encouraging debate. One might think that being one of 13,000 people would make you feel insignificant, but it was actually empowering. If each of the people sitting with me in the “cheap seats” had decided their attendance not important Israel would have received only a fraction of the support. The media and political attention received by the conference would have been muted and prominent speakers may have avoided the event.
Yes, there was more pandering and politicking than I would have liked. I would prefer to hear our leaders challenge each other to support Israel, rather than talk each other down. Israel needs all the friends she can get and the prospect of a nuclear Iran is a global threat. Nonetheless, I was honored to hear all the speakers first hand – not on You Tube, not through a reporter’s lens. The breakout sessions were interesting and informative. The technology exhibits were inspiring. But my favorite part was the people. The people from our temple that I spent time with, the people I met along the way.
I had great company driving to and from DC. I had never met Pam Keen and Beth Haiet Meyer before, but I am so glad I know them now.
I registered for the conference with the rest of the temple, but I stayed outside the city. I could have arranged to meet up with Pam and Beth or other members of our congregation, but I tend to make my on plans. On Sunday morning I arrived by myself and joined the line to go through security. I stood by myself, but within minutes I was in conversation with the couple behind me, a couple from Potomac. It was as if I had known them for years. We spent part of the day together, sharing ideas and recommending books to each other. We ate together (by the way, the food was less than appetizing) and I while I arrived alone, I was not alone.
And I believe that was the most important part of the event. To know that thousands of people joined to stand up for Israel, and that I was part of that.