Hundreds gathered at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan on Sunday, November 17, for the Israel Advocacy Conference. The event, organized by David Ha’ivri, director of the Shomron Liaison Office which promotes public relations for the Shomron, and Gershon Mesika who heads the Shomron Regional Council, featured a variety of speakers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, representing organizations that assist Jewish communities in the Shomron.
The event was also a fundraiser for the Shuva Yisrael Organization which supports the work of the Shomron Liason office. Gershon Mesika, who was also the keynote speaker stated that the event, the first of its kind held in the United States, was a “historical event of support for Israel and Judea and Samaria.”
Mark Langfan, National Chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel, explained the strategic importance of Judea and Samaria, by presenting maps of Israel and explaining how firing Katyusha rockets from Judea and Samaria, if it were to be a demilitarized zone under Palestinian control, into Israel’s main population centers would be like firing missiles from “Brooklyn to Manhattan “due to its close proximity.
There are seven reasons why Judea and Samaria must remain under Israel’s control, said Ken Abramowitz, national chairman of American Friends of Likud. In the last number on his list, he stated that “it is not just Israel would be endangered by a PLO state, but western civilization that is at risk with a weakened Israel.”
Aaron Murphy from Colorado, representing the organization HaYovel (jubilee), brings Christian volunteers from around the world to the Shomron to help Jewish farmers pick grapes for the local wine industries. In the past several years, the organization has picked over 900 tons of grapes. Murphy describes his first visit to Israel as a life changing experience, adding, “For two-thousand years of desolation, one can now see G-d’s hand restoring the Land of Israel.”
Journalist and author William Koenig, who is currently a White House correspondent, stated that he went to Washington “to stand by Israel” adding, “No earthly leader can determine the boundaries of the Promised Land.”
Countering the frequent accusations against settlements as obstacles to peace, Raphaelle Segal, a founding member of the city of Kedumim and its assistant mayor, said ”we are not the problem; we are the solution to the safety of Israel. That is why the Palestinians focus on ‘occupation’ and misconceptions. We must break the stigmas and stereotypes.”
Referring to a small group of leftist protestors outside the Synagogue, Aharon Pulver, executive director of the Israel Independence Fund, stated that he too is opposed to ‘occupation,’ but they have the “shoe on the wrong foot. We (the Jews) are the indiginous population, and as such according to international law we have the rights to settle areas previously occupied by foreigners who were not originally from the land.”
The central theme of the gathering was support Judea and Samaria as an integral part of Israeli advocacy. According to Ha'ivri, more needs to be done to explain the importance of Judea and Samaria as the core issue of Israel advocacy. “There is so much misinformation, and hasbara (public diplomacy) is not addressing those concerns.”
Groups at the event varied in their approaches which ranged from political advocacy, protecting Israel’s legal rights to Judea and Samaria, efforts to help boost the economy, protecting Jewish ownership of land and public relations. They were unified by a common commitment to the Shomron region based upon its religious, historical, and security importance to Israel and the Jewish people. In total, there were fifteen speakers representing their respective organizations.
The event, which can be seen on live stream and parts on YouTube, was also viewed on a simultaneous broadcast throughout the US and Canada, concluded with wine tasting featuring wines produced in the Shomron region.