Attending AIPAC Rebecca Orsak '18
Instead of returning to campus after the end of February break, Keith Denning ‘18, Craig Shapiro ‘15, Rachel Reibach ‘18, and I attended the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
We joined the other 16,000 Israel advocates in attendance to discuss the relationship between Israel and America both in politics and otherwise.
Rachel, Rebecca, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Craig, Director of Hillel Megan McLean, Keith, and Aaron Kliegman '14 with two students from Liberty University in the Conference Room of the House Judiciary Committee. W&L Hillel students attended lobbying meetings on the Hill with Goodlatte and both Virginia Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Photo credit: Lindsay Yates, Office of Congressman Goodlatte.
Many distinguished speakers were in attendance, including Samantha Powers, Susan Rice, Lindsey Graham, and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu's speech brought controversy to the conference, as he was invited unconventionally to speak to the United States government following his conference appearance. This being the first AIPAC Policy Conference for me and the other first-year students, we enjoyed being in the midst of breaking news in the national spotlight. Another highlight was the Matisyahu concert. With a Jewish a-capella group and Israeli singer, David Broza, opening, Matisyahu performed with a laid-back attitude, allowing the young adults in attendance to get an up-close and personal show.
Although there was a lot of focus on politics, one of the most impactful events was about Israeli innovation. We heard presentations from young Israeli entrepreneurs from various fields, ranging from the fashion industry to hospital care. Some innovations included a method to "try-on" clothes online to see how one would look before they make an online purchase, a tracking system for ships and oil exchanges, a motorcycle-style ambulance to expedite emergency services, and an app for one's phone that molecularly analyzes objects to identify them. We were all excited to see what the future of Israeli innovation holds for the rest of the world.
The LGBT panel at AIPAC's 2015 Policy Conference (from left to right): Dan Slyper, Arthur Slepian, Democratic member of Congress from Arizona Kyrsten Sinema and Will Smith (AIPAC campus activist).
Rachel, Keith, Craig, and I were able to have a memorable experience not only because of the intricate policy conference and exciting activities, but also because of the incredible atmosphere. We ran into friends from all over the country and met advocates from all walks of life. The AIPAC Policy Conference provided a forum for thought and discussion on the Israeli-American relationship, and although it was my first conference, it has already sparked my interest and revamped my passion for Israel.