At AIPAC, Student Activists Make Themselves Heard
AIPAC's 2014 annual Policy Conference came to a close Tuesday, having seen a record 14,000 supporters of Israel travel to Washington D.C. for the two-and-a-half day mega-event.
The conference was an unequivocal display of support for the alliance between the United States and the State of Israel, and the list of speakers was typically impressive. Party leaders were joined by senior Senators John McCain and Robert Menendez and Secretary of State John Kerry - all of whom stressed the mutual benefits and shared moral values which underline the continued alliance between the two countries. From the Israeli side the list of dignitaries was no less impressive: from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to opposition leader Isaac Herzog, as well as a number of other Knesset Members including Economics Minister Naftali Bennett.
But in between the big names, Arutz Sheva took the time to speak to some of the 2,300 student activists who attended the event, many of them for the first time.
One such activist was Chloe Valdary, a student from New Orleans whose Declare Your Freedom initiative - launched just last year and set to take place for the second time later this month - is gaining ever more attention on US campuses.
As opposed to other pro-Israel student campaigns, Declare Your Freedom aims to get back to basics - focusing on the justness of the Zionist cause, Chloe explained. It was a theme she said echoed the speech given minutes earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who emphasized the "moral divide" between Israel and her foes.
She said the sheer numbers and diversity of those who made the effort to be at the conference demonstrated how support for Israel is defying attempts to undermine it, but also warned against complacency, citing the "battle for hearts and minds" being waged by radical anti-Israel groups throughout American university campuses.
Diversity and the unique opportunity to meet and share ideas with people of different backgrounds was a theme voiced by many of the young AIPAC participants we interviewed, who hailed from all corners of the country.
Others were simply grateful for the exposure and access to key policy-makers, from both countries, who they would otherwise never get the chance to meet.
Whatever their backgrounds or perspectives, just walking through the corridors of the vast Washington Convention Center it was clear how their enthusiasm contributed towards the vibrant energy of the event perhaps more than any other factor - something noted and appreciated by the many Israeli delegates we spoke to.
And as proceedings came to a close, it is these young activists who will take center stage in campaigning for the rights of the Israeli people and the State of Israel.