Love will conquer terror

Sometimes I feel powerless that my efforts to ease the lives of Israeli civilians are futile against the indescribable acts terrorists commit. In the past three weeks, there has been turmoil occurring in Jerusalem. Whether it is the stabbing of an Israeli soldier and innocent lives, or the attacks on Jewish civilians in Jerusalem by Palestinians driving vehicles, the number of deaths every day increases. Although I do not live in Israel, I continue to advocate for the country.

On Sunday, November 16, 2014, I arrived in Washington D.C. to take part in the Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit. Prior to my arrival in D.C., I thought about what I would like to achieve and learn from the AIPAC senior staff, Middle East experts, and AIPAC Leadership Development professionals that led the conference. I left my home, eager to return back to New York City with more knowledge on the history of the Jewish State, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and lastly the steps I can take to advocate for the country that is in a dire situation. But, to my surprise, the weekend took a different path than I earlier expected.

I arrived home more determined than ever. But on the last day of the conference, I awoke to horrific news regarding the deadly terrorist attack that took place in the Har Hanof Synagogue in Jerusalem. I felt helpless and angry. For a moment, I felt that the three days in Washington lost all meaning. I felt that my learning regarding Israeli affairs was futile- while there were Jews under attack in Israel dying because of their religion.

While I was feeling sad, we were scheduled to lobby our Congressman at noon. In order to prepare for our meeting, we attended many sessions led by AIPAC experts. These sessions stressed the importance of oversight of Gaza reconstruction, taught us about the growing threats from the Islamic State and other terrorists groups, and also made clear that an acceptable agreement with Iran must ensure that Tehran is left with no path to nuclear weapons capability. Additionally, the sessions taught us certain etiquette while lobbying. During these sessions, I often questioned myself. Why would an educated individual who works in the Congress want to heed high school student’s words as to why the alliance between Israel and the United States of America be maintained and further strengthened.

This train of thought ceased immediately as I stepped into Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s office. As Mr. Aaron Keyak, Nadler’s staff member escorted us into Nadler’s office, I felt at ease. We started our 20-minute meeting by going around the circle and introducing ourselves. As my turn came, I introduced myself and I also added a few sentences as to why I was sitting in Nadler’s room today. I maintained that I am passionate about the State of Israel and hold strong ties to the country and that today, more than ever Israel needs full support from Congress.

Each word came flowing out of my mouth smoothly. I stressed the importance and the need for immediate help. Everything I said came out effortlessly because I dedicate each day of my life to the State of Israel. Additionally, I added a personal appeal. I asserted that I was in Israel in the summer during “Operation Protective Edge” and I observed with my own eyes that the Iron Dome does save lives. I thanked Congress members who approved over the summer emergency funding of $225 million for the Iron Dome. I added that although this system is not a long-term solution for the conflict, it is currently Israel’s top priority to protect civilians from harm.

Leaving Nadler’s office, I felt empowered. But as I thought about the deadly attack earlier in the morning, a sudden cloud of despair passed over me. I thought about the power of terrorism, compared to my efforts to advocate and protect the State of Israel. I thought that I couldn’t stop hate that drives individuals to commit terror attacks.

But then I realized that I was wrong. We, the Jewish people, all share love for the State of Israel for various reasons. Love and honor is stronger than terror. The number of deaths among the Jewish people serves as a constant reminder for us to persist and continue fighting. Although it feels as if our fight is futile, we still dedicate our lives to learning and teaching others about the country. I know that terror will be conquered, because we, the Jewish people, have never stopped fighting and loving. My passion for the state of Israel is what drives me every day to be proactive and fight against hate, because unlike terrorists I value my existence, my humanity, and love my homeland.

About the Author
Ilana Stein is a junior at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. She is a passionate advocate for the State of Israel. Ilana feels deeply connected to the land of Israel, and one day hopes to make aliyah and join the rest of her family.