14 Adar 2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              B’SD

Reflections on the AIPAC Conference

For those looking to be inspired and uplifted there are few annual events that can make one prouder to be a Jew than the AIPAC conference. Over 18,000 people filled the seats of the Verizon Center in an energetic support of Israel. Their ultimate goal is to show the branches of government a unified Jewish force to enhance the strong relationship between the State of Israel and the United States. Although I will share some personal reflections, I think it is imperative that every Jew that wears the banner of Zionism with honor attend the annual AIPAC policy conference.

It seems that my naïveté has turned to jaded melancholy. I wanted to believe in mankind’s inherent goodness. I wanted to believe that qualities such as honesty and integrity are not limited only to cherubic like angelic beings. Perhaps, I am at fault for setting my sights too high and imagining that  politicians speak from their heart – at least sometimes. I wanted to believe that not every word was strategized and calculated with the intention of pandering to their audience.

I am sitting in the airport gathering my thoughts after attending the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. I came full of optimism and hope and I leave somewhat dejected. I heard politicians from both sides of the aisle tout their “unwavering” support for Israel, yet the hyperbole left me more troubled than relieved. The applause felt canned, as though we were watching a sitcom or circus act.

I was troubled by the paradoxical rabbinical agenda that sought to delegitimize Donald Trump while simultaneously pontificating about the needs for shalom bayit and tikkun olam. I was deeply offended by our President’s trip to Cuba (planned or not planned to coincide with the Aipac Conference). I heard antagonism and slander from both sides of the political spectrum while hearing little that gave me cause for celebration. I did not rise while others gave speakers standing ovations as I heard little that gave me cause to cheer and even less that I actually believed. I heard encouraging statements but I was not encouraged. Will any candidate have the political fortitude to move the US embassy to Jerusalem? Can any candidate actually cancel the Iran nuclear on January 20th? Will sanctions be reintroduced when (not if) Iran violates the accord? Will the US unequivocally side with Israel even when it goes against the European Union? Will our country be resolute in their conviction to veto any UN resolution that seeks to implement a two state solution without the Israelis and Palestinians seated face to face? Words seem to flow unhindered, but you and I know, very little that was said will actually come to fruition.

I am despondent and can’t fathom the deaths of innocents in Brussels. I question how terrorists can infiltrate the seat of the European Union while the world still fails to comprehend the security needs of Israel. I wonder how those in Europe, who can’t find ways to control the heinous acts of terror in their own home, are promoting solutions to Israel that they know have zero chance of success. How can the UN can look in the mirror and not laugh at trying to play broker to the Israeli/Palestinian situation?

I was troubled by the realization that the Israeli/Palestinian issue has reached a stalemate. In spite of all the bravado and showmanship no one could articulate the means for solving the impasse. For every possible chess move in this dangerous political match, it appears that we are falling deeper into the opponent’s checkmate trap. One of Israel’s lead negotiators in the peace process and a former student of mine (no correlation between the two) told me during the conference, the potential for peace is an illusion; the closer we seem to get the further the boundaries move. The fleeting moments of optimism are little more than a distant mirage which vanishes without a trace before you think you arrive there.

I assume Queen Esther didn’t feel much better than me. Her situation and that of the Jewish people were untenable. The Persians of antiquity were as fanatical as their descendants. Their hatred was palpable and they too sought a final solution to eradicate the Jewish people. In the Purim story our predicament was precarious as we could rely only the single voice of the queen. Today we too are in need of Purim miracle. The clouds may be ominous and the storms may seem ravenous in their determination to metaphorically eradicate Israel and the Jewish people. But we have been there and defied the odds we have been there and flourished.

Today we as Jews can stand with pride, assured that no matter where the enemy lurks, the State of Israel will protect the Jew. I attend the AIPAC conference primarily to ensure that Israel will always have the means and support to protects the Jew. I take the words of the Psalmist to heart: lo amut, ki echyeh vasaper maaseh kah – we will not die, we will live to tell the story of the divine. We will recall not only the miracles of yesteryear but indeed the miraculous story of tomorrow.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach,
Rabbi Jack Engel

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