L'taken Students Lobby for Israel

March 1, 2011
banner.ltaken-header0910.jpgThis past weekend the Religious Action Center hosted our sixth, and final, L'taken Social Justice Seminar of the season. The l'taken seminars are intensive four-day conferences for high school students focusing on Jewish values and social justice. The seminars culminate with the students having the opportunity to lobby their Senators and Representatives on Capital Hill. The following is a lobby speech that was written and delivered on Monday by l'taken participants Jamie Rosen and Michael Iselin in the office of New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Jamie and Michael are from Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, New York.

We are here on behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. We would like to talk to you about United States involvement in providing security and well-being to the state of Israel. Since the formation of the state of Israel in May 1948, there has been an ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Jews living in this area over the geographic boundaries and power of these groups. The city of Jerusalem contains holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, making it an extremely controversial site. The Palestinians have put pressure on Israel to establish Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem, however reaching an agreement is difficult because Jewish and Muslim holy sites are literally on top of each other. Israel's borders have been a huge topic of debate, as the UN partition of 1947 that established both Jewish and Palestinian borders was immediately disregarded and there has been constant battling for territory between Israel and its Arab borders. While Israel has attempted to make peace with Palestine in exchange for returning land to the Palestinians, these attempts have been unsuccessful at achieving stability and peace. We believe that a two state solution, with both a Jewish and a Palestinian state, is the only way to create a peaceful coexistence between Israel and its neighbors. In order for this to happen, it is imperative that the United States takes a proactive role in negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments. It is also crucial to provide financial support to the state of Israel to ensure the stability of this state.

As Americans, we are fortunate to live in a country where we do not face imminent attack from our bordering countries. Thus, we understand that it is our responsibility to provide aid to countries where this is not the case, such as Israel. U.S military aid to Israel is important because it enables Israel to confront serious security threats including terrorism and weapons proliferation. We understand that the United States is recuperating from a harsh recession, and some skeptics state that providing financial aid to Israel is not economically beneficial at this time. The point must be made that from the proposed military aid package, 75% of the funds are spent in the U.S to develop new projects and technologies that are beneficial to Israel. Furthermore, while Israel is a small country, it is extremely advanced technologically and militarily, and providing economic support to Israel would give the United States access to this technology in return.

A Jewish community has existed in Israel continuously since the days of the Bible. The Union for Reform Judaism is focused on maintaining an independent Jewish state in Israel, and also recognizes that Israel has the right to defend itself against acts of terror in violence. We are committed to establishing a two-state solution in order to end this violence. We thank Senator Schumer for his strong support of diplomatic efforts for peace in Israel, and we encourage your continued advocacy until a peace settlement is reached. As a New York Senator, you are aware of the large and active Jewish population in New York State. The Jewish community feels strongly about the establishment of peace in Israel, which is why we encourage Senator Schumer to continue to represent the large New York Jewish population by supporting US involvement in the peace negotiations as well as economic aid to Israel.

Both of us have been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to visit Israel. Seeing Jewish teens like me preparing to enter the army as a necessary means to protect their home made me aware of how fortunate I am to live in the United States, where I am free to continue my education and go to college. This experience made me extremely passionate about ensuring peace in Israel, so that the youth in Israel are given the same freedom and choices that I am given in the United States.

We urge Senator Schumer to continue to support the United States involvement in peace negotiations in Israel. In addition, we ask that the new budget, recently proposed by President Obama, which includes increased funding of aid to Israel, be passed so that peace can hopefully be reached and Israel can be a safe and secure place. We encourage Senator Schumer to take an active role in support of Israeli peace so that the 112th Congress will pass resolutions to provide diplomatic guidance and financial aid to the State of Israel. Again, we thank you for your support on this issue and for your time.

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