On a flight home from Los Angeles this past August, I convinced Catherine, the woman sitting next to me, to take her next vacation in Israel. I couldn’t help myself — I’d returned from USY Pilgrimage in Israel two weeks prior, and I was flying home from my internship with StandWithUs, an Israel advocacy company based out of Los Angeles. I had a lot of excitement about Israel and couldn’t help myself but bring up my amazing visit while we talked. What I learned from my conversation with Catherine, was that airplanes are the perfect place to start up a conversation about Israel.
Talking about Israel has become very comfortable for me on airplanes, because I enjoy striking up conversation about Israeli current events, innovations, humanitarianism, and more. When I was heading to AIPAC’s Policy Conference last weekend, I couldn’t help but mention to the the man next to me that I was going to lobby my representatives about Israel legislation. At the conclusion of the conference, participants had the opportunity to travel to Capitol Hill and lobby senators and representatives. I was definitely very excited about the opportunity. Okay, nervous-excited is more accurate. Despite all the times I’ve talked with someone next to me about Israel, I’ve never carried a conversation with a government official about why I believe they should support Israel.
During my visit to the Hill, I had the opportunity to meet with Minnesota senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, where I was part of a delegation of Minnesotans who asked for their support in passing a bill that would promote Israel to the status of “major strategic partner” with the US. According to AIPAC, the designation of major strategic partner expands the US-Israel cooperation in many realms of policy. In addition to meeting with senators Franken and Klobuchar, I had the opportunity to hear representative Ted Deutch, who was one of the bill’s writers, speak about the importance of the US-Israel relationship.
After my day of lobbying, the bill to make Israel a major strategic partner passed overwhelmingly 410-1. This is great news for Israel!
Talking to my elected officials about why they should continue to support Israel was very meaningful to me. It made me realize that any individual has the power to lobby and argue for what they believe in, and it put in perspective the importance of both going to AIPAC and talking to people on airplanes about Israel. For all I know, they may have taken what I told them, found their own passion for Israel, and talked with their own elected officials about why a continued Israel-US relationship is vital to both nations. Whether talking to a senator or a stranger, I now know that every conversation about Israel truly counts.
Ari Weinstein is a senior at St. Louis Park Senior High School. He is an avid Israel activist, and works as an intern for the Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs, and he serves as United Synagogue Youth’s 2014 International Israel Affairs Vice President.