Washington, DC—Yom Yerushalayim: In the early morning hours, in towns and cities throughout the greater New York metropolitan area, (but mostly in North Jersey) one thousand dedicated supporters of Israel boarded buses for an intense day trip to Washington, D.C. to meet and speak with legislators whose votes are essential to maintaining the United States’ pro-Israel agenda. Dr. Ben Chouake of Englewood, NJ is president of NORPAC, the North Jersey Political Action Committee that sponsors the trip.
Some twenty busloads of knowledgeable and informed NORPAC representatives conversant with current and upcoming legislation converged on the Washington Convention Center. Richard Schlussel, Mission Chair, welcomed the delegations and introduced several senators and Congress people who support the America Israel relationship. Support for the Iron Dome’s defense system, strengthening sanctions against Iran and enforcing them, were among the important items up for discussion.
An additional area of concern was making legislators aware of the Palestinian Authority’s continued incitement of hate. Educating federal legislators about the history of Palestine and its “approach to peace” was compared to the way Israelis educate their children. Conversation about the continuation of the partnership between the United States and Israel, and the formalizing relationship with the United Sates ranked high on the NORPAC program.
Teaneck resident Debbie Horowitz came to Washington with her teenage son, a freshman at SAR. So did her sister and her high school aged children. They began at 6:15 a.m. and spent most of the four-hour journey learning about talking points that included securing military aid for Israel.
The thousand people gathered in the Convention Center were encouraged by the presentation of their U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who is also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Senator’s words were greeted with several standing ovations from an audience deeply appreciative of his position on the United States Israel relationship and the importance of his position.
The Senator offered praise for “what we have been able to accomplish together to keep U.S.-Israel relations strong.”There will never be daylight between the United States and Israel on my watch. Never! Not on my watch!” The Senator stood strong for “the wisdom of our democratic ideals everywhere and the power of our military strength where necessary.”
Commenting on Syrian conflict, he said the United States needed a clear strategy with our partners in the Middle East, the Senator introduced the Syria Stabilization Act of 2013 to provide assistance to “vetted Syrian armed opposition forces.
“If we do this right, he said to much applause, “we will avoid the chaos of a failed Syrian-state that will present an increased threat to region, to Lebanon and Jordan as well as to Israel, and will weaken Iran without Assad in power.” He cautioned that the conflict could be a long one.”
Considering the possibility of a nuclear Iran, the Senator said “An Iran with a nuclear weapons capability would be emboldened to take more aggressive actions against both Israel and the United States.” Saying Iran was a threat not only to Israel but to NATO countries and the entire Gulf region, the Senator stated “a nuclear Iran could unleash an arms race in the world’s most dangerous tinderbox…we reject policy options designed simply to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. Containment is not an option.”
The Senator further warned that Iran’s already unacceptable and deplorable support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and HAMAS would only increase. “It’s provocative behavior around one of the world’s most strategic waterways—The Straits of Hormuz—could escalate, and a nuclear Iran could unleash an arms race in the world’s most dangerous tinderbox.”
Cautioning the NORPAC delegates, Senator Menendez said “We do not know what will bloom from the shifting sands of the Arab Spring, but what we do know—what we must understand—is that the United States must be the one to step up to help protect the Israeli people—to “have their back” as the President has said… having Israel’s back means fighting back on the efforts to delegitimize the Israeli state.”
Many in Bergen Country relate very directly to the suffering of European Jewry during the Holocaust. “Let’s be very clear,” said the Senator, “While the Shoah has a central role in Israel’s identity, it is not the reason behind its founding and it is not the main justification for its existence …This flawed argument is not only in defiance of basic human dignity but in plain defiance of history. It is in defiance of ancient history, as told in Biblical texts and through archeological evidence. And it ignores the history of the last several centuries.
“There can be no denying the Jewish people’s legitimate right to live in peace and security on a homeland to which they have had a connection for thousands of years.”
At the convention center, Joe (Dr. Joseph) Silverman, a Bergen County dentist and sometime cantor, was invited to the stage. On this day celebrating a unified Jerusalem, the doctor offered his personal tribute, a well-received rendition of the song, Yerushalyim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold.
JLBC asked Teanecker Horowitz why she thought so many people made the trip. “These are people who are passionate about what is happening in Israel,” she said. “They are concerned Americans who want to exercise their rights as citizens.” She explained that many people come with teen age kids. The experience of seeing how our government functions is unforgettable— “a far more effective way to learn about accessibility and how to make effective formal presentations. The NORPAC mission, she said “is an opportunity to become well-versed in current events.
When asked why delegates with such strong pro-Israel sentiments haven’t made aliyah, Horowitz explained, “We very carefully present information as concerned American citizens who care about the relationship with Israel. When discussing foreign aid, divvied out to Israel, we remind the legislators that, by mandate, at least 75 percent of that money is spent in the United States.
“When one has first-hand experience with rockets falling around you, says Horowitz, “attitudes change. Recently, while in Beersheva, her husband saw “first hand” what the Iron Dome can do. When her son presented the story of his father’s experience, he went beyond politics into the emotional soul of each legislator with whom he spoke.
He’s got it right and says it so well,” commented Debbie Horowitz. And that is what NORPAC is all about.
By Maxine Dovere