This year at AIPAC

by | Mar 22, 2013 | Other News

I recently returned from attending my first AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C.

I admit that I was overwhelmed by the experience and find it almost impossible to describe the amazing amount of knowledge and emotion I was exposed to at the conference.

I can’t overstress how glad I am to have finally attended my first AIPAC conference at the age of 76, but how sorry I am that I didn’t come sooner and bring my kids along with me. We sent each of our kids to Israel when they were young to meet and stay with our Israeli family so we could expose them to our love, admiration, and pride in both Judaism and Israel, but I now believe it would have been even more effective if we had brought them with us to AIPAC when they were in high school, college, and as young adults.

I expected to gather a lot of information about what is happening today in Israel and I wasn’t disappointed. What I didn’t expect was the emotional involvement that came along with this information. The plenary sessions included many very professionally produced video segments to give us a background understanding of the issues. The “bonus” was to then see the individuals involved in the presentations standing live on stage explaining how important Israel had been to them personally, and how thankful and supportive they are for what Israel has done to help them. This produced overwhelming feelings of pride in what Israel and its citizens have accomplished, despite all the problems they face. It made me proud to be associated with these achievements in any small way.

Countless issues were presented over the three day program, but two particular sessions blew me away because they showed how Israel is making the world a better place simply because it exists.

One session was about an Ethiopian farmer who explained how poor and backward his nation is, and how hard it is for them to feed themselves. He then explained how Israel sent a team of agronomists that set up an Agricultural Training Center deep in central Ethiopia where they demonstrated and taught modern farming techniques that were developed in Israel. Six hundred Ethiopians were trained in this center, and these 600 went on to train many thousands more. Then, this young Ethiopian came on stage to say how much he admires and supports Israel for making the effort to help his country increase the food available to them even while Israel has so many issues and concerns of their own. America gives lots of money to many nations, but we have the wealth and security to do this, while Israel has neither, but it does have the desire to help make the world a better place.

The most emotional film presentation, at least to me, was given by a typical American non-Jewish guy from Pennsylvania who became a paraplegic as a result of a hunting accident. In the film, he explained that he simply was not going to give up on life, and was determined to do whatever he could to walk again. He then told about an invention of an exoskeleton that was recently developed by an Israeli doctor, and his hope to someday be able to use this device himself. At the end of the film, this man came on stage actually walking with the aid of his exoskeleton, and told us that he was very excited to be able to meet the inventor that had done so much to improve his life. What brought tears to my eyes, and I’m sure to most of the other 12,000 people in the audience, was when the Israeli inventor rolled out on stage in his wheelchair and explained that he was a quadriplegic and that his invention was unable to help him. Nevertheless, he was hopeful that with more time, effort, and Israeli inventiveness, maybe something could be developed in the future that could also help him. The audience gave this doctor a standing ovation, which he modestly acknowledged, but then explained that the best standing ovation was the one delivered by the Pennsylvanian that he had been able to help stand on his own.

There were simply too many of these moments to tell about, and I’m not a good enough writer to even try to do justice to explain the wonderful experience that I had at AIPAC. All I can say is that you had to be there in person to experience it for yourself, and I hope that many of you will do just that. If not “Next Year in Jerusalem,” then the next best thing, and a very close best thing it will be, is “Next Year at AIPAC.”

by Arthur Rosenfeld