Last January, Calvin Souder took a journey to Israel that deeply impacted his life.
The Newark attorney traveled to the Holy Land as part of AIPAC’s African American Fellowship.
His journey was so inspirational, that the married father of four plans to attend the March 2020 Policy Conference in Washington, DC, and become an active spokesman for the Israel-US relationship.
“I have just had a wonderful experience with AIPAC,” he said. “The Jewish focus is a basic human right to live as a free people and to have a place as a homeland, which is a basic fundamental right for everyone. I traveled all over the country when I was there.”
Souder said that AIPAC was not “bashful” to share the difficult parts as well, especially when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We had Palestinians as well as Israelis tell us their stories,” he said.
AIPAC’s African American Fellowship engages members of Congress as well as hosts meetings and shares its support for Israel. African-American AIPAC activists also identify other community members who “have the potential to become pro-Israel political activists through AIPAC,” according to the AIPAC website.
Souder said that about three weeks prior to his visit to Israel, he had posted a comment on Facebook “about IDF soldiers being depicted as pretty brutal to Palestinian children. I was asking a lot of questions about it. In my mind there’s always more information to identify. But getting there and seeing the reality of how people are living, to see the close proximity of Israelis and Palestinians.
“You go to the Gaza Strip and you see the danger to Israel that is there,” he continued. “And then you go to the border with Syria and realize that danger. Even when you go to the settlements, you realize that Israel has carved out the high ground, because it was attacked. They don’t tell you that in the media. We read that Israel has taken land, but the reality is there was a war (Six Day War in 1967). Israel could have taken all of the land (West Bank), but it did not. It took only land for strategic military positions.
Souder also talked about the spiritual meaning of his Israel trip.
“Aside from the beautiful country, I never thought I’d walk in the same footsteps as Jesus,” he said. “To learn about what is happening in the Middle East while being in the Middle East is important to me. To see that Israel has been used as a pawn in a Muslim war for 3,000 years is also critical.”
Souder is an attorney who makes his home in Newark. He was a member of the board of trustees of Essex County College from 2009-2017 and was also on the board for Adopt One Village, which is based in West Orange, from 2011-2013.
During his trip, Souder had the opportunity to spend a Shabbat with an Israeli family.
“To have someone open their doors for all of us for Shabbat, that speaks volumes,” he said. “It was a trip unlike any other I’ve taken. Also there are so many similarities in our histories between the African-American and the Jewish people. We should work together from a similar platform. The African-American community can learn a lot from the Jewish community.”
By Phil Jacobs