By Marlana Fireman, NFTY-OV RCVP
It’s easy to say that 14,000 is a big number. 14,000 people is a lot of people. It’s easy to say that too. But when you’re standing at the top of a staircase two levels above 14,000 people, that’s when it really hits you.
This past weekend I was just one of 14,000 people who went to Washington, D.C. to participate in AIPAC’s Policy Conference. If you don’t know, AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Policy Conference is their biggest event of the year, drawing participants from all over the world to come together to learn, discuss, and explore. A friend of mine asked me if last weekend I went to “another Jewish thing.” I don’t think the phrase “another Jewish thing” gives AIPAC PC justice for many reasons.
I wouldn’t be so quick to say Jewish because it definitely wasn’t all Jews. There were also Christians of every denomination. And aside from religion, it wasn’t just your stereotypical white Jewish person there either. We were joined by hundreds of people; African-American, Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic. I met Christian students from Liberty University and a Baptist pastor from the south side of Chicago. People from every walk of life came together at AIPAC to show their support for Israel.
I wouldn’t be so quick to say thing. A thing is when you go to some sort of vague celebration at your mom’s best friend’s house. A thing is the kind of school field trip that you dread, like going to the wastewater treatment plant. A thing is not an event that John Kerry, John McCain, Chuck Schumer, Ofra Strauss, Ari Shavit, and Binyamin Netanyahu show up to. So this definitely wasn’t a thing. We heard from the abovementioned speakers and countless others who told their stories; their connections to Israel, their love for the Holy Land, their dedication and promise to go to any length for the safety of Israel and its people. I was so inspired by AIPAC’s speakers and guests that I was brought to tears more than once after being reminded that peace is truly possible.
This weekend truly revitalized my motivation because as a student delegate and one of 400 high school students there, I had the opportunity to lobby my senators and representatives. I talked to two representatives and a senator about supporting the US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act as well as pushing more sanctions on Iran and deconstructing their nuclear program. Talk about activism. It got me thinking about Slacktivism though. Slacktivism is activism + slacking, also known as signing an online petition or doing something similarly slacker-ish while still getting the gratification of being able to call yourself an activist. But here I was, in Washington, D.C. doing the real work. My weekend with AIPAC made me realize that change is possible, and change is in your hands. You hear on the news about Iran sanctions and Israel-Palestine peace talks, and you never even think that someone was behind all that… doing the work. But there I was, standing on Capitol Hill in business casual, doing the work.
As I stood in line to enter the Cannon building where my next appointment was, I checked my watch. It was 2:45pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Out of nowhere a man and a woman walked by holding out a huge bag of oranges and pre-wrapped muffins.
“Want one?” The man asked me.
“Sure,” I replied.
“Feed the deed,” He smiled.
Activism. The opportunity to make a difference is all around us. And I think I made it. Lobbying was exhausting. I spent the day with a huge smile plastered on my face and hadn’t introduced myself this many times since my very first NFTY event. My feet hurt, I was hungry, but I know I made a difference.
March 5th, 2014 the House passed the US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. It passed 410-1 with a bipartisan vote.
If you will it, it is no dream…