Lauren Hannani culture editor
For about 10 students, this past weekend consisted of seeing U.S. senators, the U.S. vice president and the prime minister of Israel, among other politicians, all in person. This group attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an annual event that brings together pro-Israel activists and top politicians from around the country to discuss and strengthen the U.S.- Israel relationship.
From Sunday, March 3 to Tuesday, March 6, these students sat in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., to listen to speeches by numerous politicians, including Senator Marco Rubio and Vice President Mike Pence.
“It was insane,” senior Chloe Levian said. “Last week, I learned about them in AP Gov, and then the next week, I am listening to them speak in person.”
One moment that senior Kymia Illdardashty remembers well from the conference is a speech by Nikki Hailey about Israel’s ability to overcome many different obstacles and wars over time.
“There was a moment when one of the speakers brought up Jerusalem being Israel’s capital and how no one can take that away from Israel,” Illdardashty said. “And even though Israel is this tiny country, it has come so far and has accomplished so many things.”
This speech made Illdardashty realize just how powerful this conference really is in bringing people from all different backgrounds together for Israel.
“When everyone would get up and clap, it made me think, like, ‘Wow, there are so many different people here: Republicans, Democrats, rabbis, seculars,'” she said. “And they are all here because they all have one thing in common, and that’s their love for Israel and how much they care for this country.”
For senior Rachel Khorshad, the most memorable part of the experience was witnessing the friendly diplomatic bond between Americans and Israelis in person.
“It made me so happy to see the strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Khorshad said. “There were countless times when representatives from the U.S. and from Israel would share their individual connections to Israel and would follow that anecdote by promoting legislation.”
After seeing many congressmen attend and speak at the conference, Khorshad is hopeful that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel will continue to be on good terms.
“There were so many leaders of Congress present this year at AIPAC. I have gone for the past three years, but it was still so surprising to see people like Senator Mitch McConnell or Senator Kamala Harris,” she said. “They all spoke of their long-lasting support of Israel, and it was so reassuring to hear leaders of the government say these things.”
A feature of the conference that Khorshad feels does not get enough attention is the number of organizations in Israel that make a difference in people’s lives.
“This year, representatives from the Israel Guide Dog Center came. This group is the first Israeli guide dog center for the blind, and I got to meet a few blind people from Israel who received dogs through the organization,” she said. “It was really special to have that opportunity to speak to them.”
Overall, Khorshad, Illdardashty and Levian are very grateful that they had the chance to attend AIPAC this year.
“I had a great time. The whole atmosphere at AIPAC was amazing. I think anyone who loves Israel or who is very interested in this topic would find AIPAC to be very interesting,” Illdardashty said. “You meet so many new people and you learn a lot about how Israel is advancing and what’s going on over there. I think it is worth it to go at least once for the experience.”
To watch some of the speeches made at AIPAC, click here.