This past week I had the privilege to join over 18,000 people of all backgrounds at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in our nation’s capital. Coming together with such a diverse group of activists with a common goal of supporting the Jewish state of Israel proved to be an experience that every college student should gain.
With the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement quickly gaining traction on college campuses, students like myself are so often questioning our own set of beliefs regarding the state of Israel. College students are continually being told to forget their morals and disavow the sole Jewish state, so nothing is more reassuring than joining over 4,000 fellow students from hundreds of universities to show support for Israel.
Once I stepped foot in the conference hall, all feelings of doubt and fear quickly washed away. AIPAC showed me that supporting the land of my people is not an evil endeavor, nor am I alone in my support. In the partisan political environment in which I grew up, nothing made me happier than to see politicians from both sides of the aisle come together to support the Jewish state.
I am convinced that there is nowhere else in the nation where thousands of people will stand and clap for both [Republican] Vice President Pence and [Democratic] House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Seeing Democrats and Republicans put their differences aside and stand together on stage shows how vital Israel’s existence and security really are. This is not a liberal or conservative issue, but an American one.
With the spreading of lies and misinformation that frame the state of Israel in a bad light, I was convinced the Democratic party as a whole was moving away from supporting Israel. I am proud to report that this is not the case. I learned through the passionate speeches Sens. Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer delivered, as well as the lobbying meeting I had with my Rep. Lucy McBath, the majority of Democrats love and support Israel just as much as any Republican does.
Whether it be for religious or moral reasons, Americans see a clear need to back the only democracy in the Middle East. Israel is one of America’s greatest allies, and America is one of Israel’s greatest friends, and their bond is unbreakable.
What I learned the most at AIPAC did not come from within the doors of the convention center itself, but from the protestors shouting outside. For the first time in my life, I came face to face with open anti-Semites. While some vocally denied the Holocaust, and some called for another, these protestors unintentionally proved the exact opposite of what they were protesting.
Their calls for the destruction of AIPAC and the state of Israel showed that the Jewish people need a nation they can call home in the rise of anti-Semitism, a place to escape the very same anti-Semites that shouted from outside the conference. While deep down I always knew anti-Semitism existed, seeing it in person changed my perception about the necessity and urgency of a Jewish state.
Seeing anti-Semitism firsthand was the final piece of the puzzle in understanding why I was at the conference. I was there to do my part as a member of the Jewish community and as an American citizen. It was my job to lobby for the protection of the state of Israel. On the last day of the conference, as I entered the bus heading for Capitol Hill, I was ready to make my presence known to my congresspeople. I was eager to convey the same sense of urgency and necessity that I realized just a day before.
By showing up to Capitol Hill in numbers, our congresspeople were able to visualize how significant support for Israel is to their constituents. If they want to remain in office, they understand that support for Israel is non-negotiable. That is the power that strength in numbers has in politics.
That is why all students that love Israel need to attend an AIPAC Policy Conference. Being able to come together with over 18,000 supporters of Israel from all ethnicities, religions and political ideologies showed me that by standing together, Israel would never have to stand alone.
Alex Blecker is a freshman at Oglethorpe University double majoring in economics and political science.