My first trip to Israel made real for me all I’d believed about Israel.
I was allowed to fly an air force jet from the Ovda Airbase. It was then that Israeli insecurity about narrow borders became very real to me. In a matter of minutes, I came close to violating the airspace of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. From that moment on, I felt as Israelis do: The promise of peace must be secure before the Promised Land is secure on a thin margin of land.
Back on the ground on that first trip, I toured the country from Kibbutz Mizgav Am to Masada to the Golan. I stood in the very shelter in a kibbutz in the north where children were attacked and I looked at launching sites and impact zones for Katousha rockets. I was enthralled by Tel Aviv, moved by Jerusalem and inspired by by standing above Capernaum, looking out over the Sea of Galilee, where I read aloud the Sermon on The Mount. I met people of stunning commitment, who honestly and vigorously debated the issues as I watched and listened intently. I went as a friend by conviction; I returned a friend at the deepest personal level.
As the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel has both the burden and the glory of a vigorous public square. We as Americans must be the truest and best kind of ally – forthright enough to say what we think – and steadfast enough to stay the course in hard passages as well as easy days.
Herzl’s famous words – “If you will it, it is no dream” – signify the promise and the greatest power of Israel – and the hope that a fair and secure peace can be achieved. We must be committed to support Israel in the exacting, essential search for that dream.
I will never forget a moment on top of Masada, when I stood on that great plateau where the oath of new soldiers used to be sworn against the desert backdrop and the test of history. I had spent several hours with Yadin Roman debating whether or not Josephus Flavius was correct in his account of the siege – whether these really were the last Jews fighting for survival – whether they had escaped since no remains were ever found. After our journey through history – which we resolved with a vote in favor of history as recorded – we stood as a group at the end of the cliff and altogether we shouted across the chasm – across the desert – Am Yisrael Chai. And across the silence we listened as voices came back – faintly we heard the echo of the souls of those who perished – Am Yisrael Chai. The State of Israel lives. The people of Israel live.
In this difficult time we must again reaffirm we are enlisted for the duration – and reaffirm our belief that the cause of Israel must be the cause of America – and the cause of people of conscience everywhere.
The author is a Massachusetts Senator and a Democratic Candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Article is reprinted from the Brown Students for Israel publication “Perspectives: An Israel Review”
Courtesy Raja Mattar