The kippah count rose exponentially on The East Coast Hollywood two weeks ago. Washington, D.C. buzzed with the voices of Israel supporters from all 50 states during the annual AIPAC conference on Capitol Hill. A whopping 7,500 U.S. citizens eager to proclaim their support for AIPAC and the U.S.-Israel relationship convened at the convention center for a weekend of listening, learning, and lobbying. I was among them.
I was a music major. Political life wasn’t a part of my college experience. I never dreamed I would be sitting face to face with my two senators speaking openly about the growing threat of a nuclear Iran. Yet I felt the same adrenaline rush speaking with our state’s leaders as I did singing onstage. The day of lobbying combined my passion for Israel with a sense of camaraderie, much like being a part of a highly intellectual sports team, or the violist in an ensemble. As thousands of attendees spoke with their senators and congressional representatives, each person became a key player in the orchestra of pro-Israel activists.
For those not familiar with AIPAC, it is the largest pro-Israel lobby in America. AIPAC isn’t Democrat or Republican. It isn’t even “Jewish” (though some might call the youth leadership receptions an extended form of J-Date). AIPAC is a voice to our elected officials explaining why the United States must continue fostering a supportive partnership with the only democratic country in the Middle East: Israel.
This was my second year attending the conference. As a recent USC graduate missing the bygone days of lecture halls and late-night projects, it felt like a long-awaited brain massage dissecting the thoughts of Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and author and law professor Alan Dershowitz as they spoke about one of the most historically controversial topics on the Hill, the Middle East. Empowered by AIPAC, I discovered I have a voice in Congress. Chatting with Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both staunch supporters of AIPAC’s missions, I felt their undivided attention and realized my voice was making a difference. I am not a lawyer, a businesswoman, or a politician, but as an American activist, I am a person of influence. Surrounded by people who are inspiring, successful, and love our grassroots democracy, AIPAC changed my life.
It was a colorful setting. Amid the red, white and blue-themed backdrop, hundreds of characters clustered in packs from New York’s trendy Upper East sSide, to couture-clad Los Angeles, everyone drinking from the same bottle of Manischewitz — Kool-Aid for Israel. Jews, Christians, and over a thousand students jumped from room to room, hearing lectures given by college professors, renowned journalists, and high-ranking military officials from both Israel and the U.S.
When the time came to return home to Seattle’s Capitol Hill, I had energy, new ideas, and several business cards in my pocket. I felt like I had done what I could to protect the country that changed my life a year ago when I was singing opera in Tel Aviv. I Skyped with my Israeli friends, boasting about the conference, and the changes we’re making by getting Israeli military funding. Though I’ll never be a soldier in the IDF, as an opera singer I am fighting by utilizing what I know best: My voice.