By Ben Chouake
I recall the difficult days of the Yom Kippur War. We lived in a modest neighborhood, and while I was visiting my friend, his father, who worked as a tailor, walked into his house and told the family he had just put their life savings of $20,000 into Israel Bonds. It was an important moment for me, to see firsthand the commitment of an American Jew towards Israel in its moment of need.
In case you are thinking of passing on the NORPAC Mission to Washington DC this year, let’s outline some of the issues. The Arab Spring has come to mean a more aggressive Egypt; it means an unstable Syria with chemical and biological weapons; it means Jordan, the next country likely to fall to the Muslim Brotherhood, causing mischief along Israel’s eastern border; and it means serious weapons from Libya and Syria falling into the hands of terrorists.
The case for stronger action on Iran’s WMD program is more compelling each day. The first four targets for this brutal theocracy are Tel Aviv, New York, Washington DC, and Riyadh. Iran’s mullahs wish to do to the Jews in 12 minutes what Hitler did in 12 years.
We have an opportunity to help do something about this. On May 8, you can join NORPAC on its annual mission to meet with Congress and influence our most powerful federal leaders to stand by Israel and to help Israel defend herself against the existential threats that emanate from all sides.
NORPAC’s membership is going to outline to our national leadership this existential threat to both America and Israel. Let me illustrate the effectiveness of our advocacy. In 2011, the NORPAC Mission to Washington was particularly important, as Congress was in budget negotiations. The recession was deep and the foreign-aid package, which we had generally thought to be an “easy ask,” was in jeopardy. NORPAC was in Washington advocating for the $3 billion in foreign aid and a new system in development called the Iron Dome.
It was the day of the 2011 NORPAC mission when the congressional leadership first advised the pro-Israel community that Israel would get the full aid package despite budget problems. However, we were also told the outlook for the Iron Dome funding looked grim. Nonetheless, the thousand NORPAC members continued to advocate for funding for the then-experimental anti-missile system.
I stayed late for my last meeting to see my friend Senator Ayotte, and to my surprise, Senator Thune, Republican caucus chairman and well respected among the fiscal conservatives, came out of the voting chamber to meet me together with Senator Ayotte. Senator Thune reassured me of the full funding for foreign aid to Israel but said the Iron Dome, as an experimental system, was too expensive at this time. I gave the senator warm regards from my mother, who was too weak to join us that year. He remembered her well from prior years. I told him of basketball advice my father related to me as a youth. “Short and Jewish–shoot from the outside.” I explained that the engineers in Israel were particularly good at this technology, that this is their outside shot and we will all benefit from a worthwhile investment even in these pressing times. The Senator, a 6’5” basketball player, chuckled at the story and, in a surprising turnaround, pledged his support for the program.
It was min haShamayim (by the grace of Gâ€‘d) that NORPAC was in Washington that critical day of budget decisions. NORPAC members in each of over 450 meetings advocated for this little-known program and the tide was turned. By day’s end, it was clear the sense of Congress about the Iron Dome program was palpably favorable.
Those of us that were at that NORPAC mission saw the fruits of our labors during last year’s war with Gaza, as the Iron Dome program kept missiles from raining on Tel Aviv and enabled Israel to avoid a ground war.
The oversized role that a few determined and committed people can play in our nation is astounding. Going down to Washington with NORPAC is a leveraged way of making oneself heard. Our membership over the years have made compelling cases and have been key players in promoting legislative initiatives. This year we will have about 475 meetings planned for small NORPAC groups. A sincere citizen advocate in Washington is far more compelling than the most sophisticated lobbyist. Each one of you that attends the mission has more influence than the 10,000 that stay at home.
Time and again, members of Congress have told us the NORPAC Mission was their best meeting of the year, that it was an eye opener, or that the NORPAC meeting changed their vote.
So if you cannot spare the cash, spare the time. Give one day to Israel. Give May 8 to Israel. You can do much more for Israel on May 8 than you can for your clients, patients, employers, employees, and customers. May 8 is the one day when you will do the most good to promote U.S.—Israel relations and be effective doing your part for the survival of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people.
While it takes special courage and determination to put the family’s life savings into a country during a time of war, as Americans have done repeatedly during Israel’s wars, and it takes a special character to stand at the front lines, like those fallen we recently honored during Yom HaZikaron, we must do our part as well.
Please join us for one day to do something only American Jews can. Come meet with our national leaders and participate in ensuring the continuing miracle of our generation, the survival of the State of Israel.
You can join the NORPAC Mission by visiting norpac.net or calling 201-788-5133. v