Editor’s Note: The following are viewpoints from two students who attend the The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference. These opinions do not reflect the views of the Sentinel staff.
By Max Ripans
To me, AIPAC 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, ethnicity, races, colors and political beliefs all sharing the same love and support for Israel gave me hope (תקווה) for the future of Israel.
It was speaker Dr. Arthur Brooks who made me and my friends 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 God 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, 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 upcoming, first trip to Israel later this year where she wants to “touch, feel, and taste Israeli culture” and to 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 (תיקון עולם), 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 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 Donald Trump and his administration in 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!
By Will Stanwick
After capping off my third year of attending AIPAC Policy Conference as a high school student, my experiences have left me with a sense of responsibility.
While 2019’s conference was conducted similarly to the years I have attended in the past, something about this year felt different. The conference is always overwhelming at first, within a single convention center holds a microcosm of Israeli innovation, politics, culture and society. Everything is at the disposal of myself and 18,000 other delegates.
However, while walking around in between sessions, I could not help but notice how many other delegates appeared to be a similar age to me.
At past conferences, I would occasionally notice other teens my age, but the overwhelming sense was that I was much younger than the majority of the other delegates.
There was something heartwarming about seeing so many other people my age who had traveled from all over the country to advocate for Israel. I do not know if the large teen attendance is a product of new high school engagement efforts by AIPAC, or if I am simply closing in on the age of responsibility as an advocate of Israel: the age of action.
Every year, the other delegates of the Weber School and I attend AIPAC’s student breakout session. The session is typically lead by young adults, around the age of college students, who bring together a promising lineup of speakers and presentations which cater to the interests and lives of my generation.
I walked into the session, sat down among 4,000 other student delegates and prepared to jot down specific quotes and ideas that I liked. I ended up looking into what the speakers said so intensely that I left the session with only one quote, a quote which perfectly encompassed and reinforced what I quickly discerned while being at the conference.
After all of the innovators, philanthropists and advocates who were arranged to speak had finished their pieces, the head of the breakout session, a bearded man whose name I did not capture, left the audience with this idea: “How do you make a change? It is written in our constitution: participate. You have made it as far as policy conference; why stop here?”
I sat and reflected on this call to action, and simply appreciated how the AIPAC experience had prepared me for the next level of political advocacy.
Because of AIPAC, I have seen first hand that people from all walks of life, and all ends of the political spectrum, can be united on a single important issue. And it is apparent to me, that it is now my turn. From that point on, when I saw the other delegates of the conference, I did not recognize them as old and young, rather as the past, current, and future leadership of Jewish America.