Advocate for Israel
Read this story in the Washington Jewish Week
I am an advocate for Israel and an advocate for the American-Israel relationship. From Nov. 3 to Nov. 5, I joined more than 400 teen leaders from more than 181 schools from around the country for AIPAC’s Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit as part of BBYO’s and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School’s delegations.
I went into the summit with the misconception that posting on Twitter and Facebook, periodically planting trees and learning and teaching its history, culture, and importance was enough to demonstrate my love for the state of Israel. I left with the conviction that all I had done so far in life has had an imperceptible impact on the state I so ardently support.
Theodore Herzl, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion continually fought to augment and enhance the Zionist movement, create a Jewish state and ensure the continuity of the Jewish nation. They were successful and in 1948 a Jewish state was created. Instantly, Israel faced an invasion by its neighbors. The people stood firm, putting their lives on the line to ensure the continuation of the Jewish state. That battle is far from over.
While unlike heroic IDF soldiers, we don’t carry assault rifles, drive tanks, or fly warplanes, but we still have a vital role in this continuing fight for Israel’s survival. That being said, we still have weapons. Our weapons are our words, our emails, our letters, our dialogues, our engagement, our lobbying — our relentless advocacy for the state of Israel.
We began the summit learning about the importance of not only having dialogues with lawmakers, but engaging lawmakers and creating long-term relationships with them. This ensures that advocates consistently converse with their respective representatives, to guarantee Congress always has members who are supporters of the American-Israel relationship.
The idea of engagement didn’t stop there. The next day we learned about the value of engaging our own communities to form relationships that foster a strong team of Israel supporters. This way, specifically in a time of crisis, there will be a group of earnest pro-Israel proponents in every community, prepared to speak up to ensure that Israel remains safe and it’s alliance with the United States is unscathed.
The last night of the summit, we heard from an IDF sergeant whose story of his experiences serving in the IDF and personal struggle with anti-Semitism inspired us all to take action. The next morning we were taken to Capitol Hill to lobby our representatives and begin our own engagement process. When we returned to the summit for the concluding discourse, we were reminded of the importance of bringing what we learned back to our own communities; this column is my way of “bringing it home.”
Last November, Israel’s citizens were the victims of more than 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza. During this conflict Israel not only perpetually faced the threat of rockets, but also widespread criticism of its defensive efforts. During this time, pro-Israel advocates in the United States assiduously advocated and lobbied their congressmen and congresswomen to support Israel and its defense efforts. While this network of supporters was far-reaching, imagine the even greater impact that would have resulted if the movement had been larger. Imagine the tangible impact that would have resulted if every person reading this article called, or emailed, his or her congressperson.
We can only pray that a similar crisis won’t arise, but we must be aware the possibility exists. I urge you to engage your representatives and your communities, engender your own networks of supporters, and use your words, e-mails and phone calls. Be advocates for Israel, advocates for a Jewish state and advocates for the American-Israel relationship, because most people are not.
Yosi Vogel is an 11th-grader at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.