I recall the difficult days of the Yom Kippur War.
We lived in a modest neighborhood. While I was visiting my friend, his father, who worked as a tailor, walked into his house and told the family that he had just put their life savings – $20,000 – into Israel bonds. It was an important moment for me, seeing firsthand the commitment of an American Jew toward Israel in its moment of need.
In case you are thinking of passing on NORPAC’s mission to Washington this year, let’s outline some of the issues. The Arab Spring has come to mean a more aggressive Egypt; it means an unstable Syria with chemical and biologic weapons; it means Jordan, the next country likely to fall to the Muslim Brotherhood, causing mischief along Israel’s Eastern border; it means serious weapons from Libya and Syria falling into the hands of terrorists.
The case for stronger action on Iran’s WMD program is more compelling each day. The first four targets for this brutal theocracy are Tel Aviv, New York, Washington, and Riyadh. Iran’s mullahs wish to do to the Jews in 12 minutes what Hitler did in 12 years.
We have an opportunity to help to do something about this. On May 8, you can join NORPAC on its annual mission to meet with Congress and influence our most powerful federal leaders to stand by Israel, and to help Israel defend herself against the existential threats that emanate from all sides.
NORPAC’s members are going to outline this existential threat to both America and Israel to our national leaders. Let me illustrate the effectiveness of our advocacy. In 2011, the NORPAC mission to Washington was particularly important because Congress was in budget negotiations. The recession was deep, and the foreign aid package, which we had generally thought to be an “easy ask,” was in jeopardy. NORPAC was in Washington advocating for $3 billion in foreign aid and a new system, then in development, called the Iron Dome.
It was the day of the 2011 NORPAC mission when congressional leaders first advised the pro-Israel community that Israel would get the full aid package despite budget problems. However, we also were told that the outlook for Iron Dome funding looked grim. Nonetheless, the 1,000 NORPAC members continued to advocate for funding for the then experimental anti-missile system.
I stayed late for my last meeting to see my friend Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). To my surprise, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Republican caucus chairman, who was well respected among the fiscal conservatives, came out of the voting chamber to meet me together with Senator Ayotte. Senator Thune reassured me of the full funding for foreign aid to Israel but said that as an experimental system, the Iron Dome was too expensive at this time.
I gave the senator warm regards from my mother, who was too weak to join us that year. He remembered her well from other years. I told him of basketball advice my father gave me when I was young: “Short and Jewish – shoot from the outside.” I explained that the engineers in Israel were particularly good at this technology, that this is their outside shot, and that we all would benefit from a worthwhile investment even in these pressing times. The senator, a 6-foot 5-inch basketball player, chuckled at the story. And in a surprising turnaround he pledged his support for the program.
It was min hashamyim – by the grace of God – that NORPAC was in Washington that critical day of budget decisions, NORPAC members in each of over 450 meetings advocated for this little-known program, and the tide was turned. By day’s end, it was clear that Congress’ feeling about the Iron Dome program was palpably favorable.
Those of us who were on that NORPAC mission saw the fruits of our labors during last year’s war with Gaza, as the Iron Dome program kept missiles from raining on Tel Aviv and enabled Israel to avoid a ground war.
The oversized role that a few determined and committed people can play in our nation is astounding. Going down to Washington with NORPAC is a leveraged way of making yourself heard. Over the years, our members have made compelling cases. They have been key players in promoting legislative initiatives. This year, we will have about 475 meetings planned for small NORPAC groups.
A sincere citizen advocate in Washington is far more compelling than the most sophisticated lobbyist. Each of you who attends the mission has more influence than the 10,000 who stay at home.
Time and again, members of Congress have told us that the NORPAC mission was their best meeting of the year, that it was an eye opener, or that the NORPAC meeting changed their vote.
So if you cannot spare the cash, spare the time. Give one day to Israel. Give May 8, 2013, to Israel. You can do much more for Israel on May 8 than you can for your clients, patients, employers, employees, or customers. May 8 is the one day when you will do the most good to promote US-Israel relations, and be effective doing your part for the survival of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people.
While it takes special courage and determination to put the family’s life savings in a country during wartime, as Americans have done repeatedly during Israel’s wars, and it takes a special character to stand at the front lines, like those fallen we recently honored during Yom Hazikaron, we must do our part as well.
Please join us for one day to do something only American Jews can. Come meet with our national leaders and participate in ensuring the continuing miracle of our generation, the survival of the State of Israel.
You can join the NORPAC mission by going to norpac.net or calling 201-788-5133.