Americans have a lot to learn from Israel
September 6, 2019
Last week, I had the honor and privilege of traveling to Israel for the very first time, thanks to the American Israel Education Foundation. Every two years, AIEF sponsors a trip for freshman members of Congress to educate policy makers about Israel’s history, as well as the strong economic bond and strategic military alliance between our two nations. Israel is a critical ally of the United States of America, a bulwark of stability in an unstable region, and a true friend with shared democratic ideals.
What a trip it was! I visited the Elah Valley, where David killed Goliath. I walked on the 2,700-year-old Pilgrimage Road being excavated under the streets of Jerusalem, and I stood atop the fortress at Masada where Jewish rebels made a defiant last stand against the Roman Empire in 73 A.D.
I learned about Israel’s numerous business startups, many of which have created American jobs, about its rapid and ingenious steps toward energy and water independence, and about its close working relationship with the U.S. in the areas of technology and security.
And finally, I toured several key regions across Israel where it vigilantly defends itself from hostile, terrorist aggression. And although I was impressed by all of these things, I was not surprised.
There were three things, however, I never expected. First, I felt an instant friendship and bond with the Israeli people, which is hard to describe. Everywhere I went people were gracious, warm and inviting. It was almost like “coming home” to a place I had never been.
I also discovered that Israelis are a happy and purpose-driven people. They are bound together by a shared sense of responsibility and duty. They seem firmly centered in the belief that they are fulfilling a destiny millions before them have hoped, prayed, and longed for.
Finally, I learned that Israel is a nation of strong families. I experienced an intimate Shabbat dinner with a Jewish family as the Sabbath began, during which the father affectionately blessed and kissed his three children. It was a moving experience that almost brought me to tears. As I was walking back to my hotel, I realized that families all over Jerusalem had shared a similar intimate experience and, further, that they do so each week.
I hope to travel to Israel again soon. The trip far surpassed my expectations. It confirmed my prior conviction in the importance of our friendship, and it opened my eyes to the incredible depth, texture, and strength of Israel’s culture and its people.