Filling My Mind and Soul with Israel
On Wednesday, I boarded a 5:45 am train for Washington, D.C. filled with excitement and anticipation of a day filled with learning at the National Rabbinic Symposium of AIPAC. When I arrived home late that night, I felt satisfied that I had been correct. One may wonder how a day spent discussing the difficult, intractable current affairs of Israel could possibly be uplifting, but it was just that. Surrounded by 250 rabbinic colleagues hearing from great thinkers and actors on the stage of Israel affairs, I felt supported and optimistic. Why? As always at AIPAC events, I was reminded of the incredible difference one person can make by exercising her American right to be an advocate for a cause. The cause of AIPAC is protecting and enhancing the American-Israel relationship. Throughout the day, one of my friends kept chanting, “Thank God, Thank God, Thank God for America’s friendship” every time the Iron Dome Defense System was mentioned. I was reminded all day that America is Israel’s staunch ally.
How much more talking and listening can we do about Israel, you may ask. All summer we wrote and read and talked about Israel. Rabbi Scheff and I will both be speaking about Israel on Yom Kippur — me at Kol Nidre and Rabbi Scheff on Yom Kippur morning. The answer is that we will not stop talking about Israel and that was the point of yesterday’s symposium.
I share with you now just one moment of learning in the midst of seven hours of speakers, discussion groups and presentations. At the lunchtime plenary, we were honored to meet and listen to Mosab Hassan Yousef, author of Son of Hamas, his autobiography about his childhood in Ramallah, his work as a spy for the Shin Bet (Mossad) for ten years and his eventual asylum here in America. Mosab’s father is Seikh Hassan Yousef, is a founding leader of Hamas, yet this son came to understand that murder and violence are not answers to the issues of Israel and her Arab neighbors. It felt like all of us in the room were holding our breath as Mosab shared his story with calm humility and courage. He does not believe that he is a hero; rather, he feels that he is a person who came to understand that saving even one life is worth the world. He was asked how he would bring peace to the Middle East given all that he knows about Hamas, Gaza and the West Bank, Israel and America. I cannot stop thinking about his answer. He looked out at all of us and said, “The only thing I can say is Israel must protect herself.” When all is said and done, he is right. Israel must protect herself, but she cannot do it without us. And so we must continue to protect Israel. That is why we’ll continue to read, write, talk and discuss Israel. Am Yisrael Chai!
Kol tuv, All the best, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill