I’m in a room with 18,000 people who all share the apparent commonality of wanting to strengthen bipartisan support for Israel. There’s a video playing, projected onto nearly eight enormous screens, spanning across the room. In the video, different Israeli families construct the heart-warming narrative of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz in the South of Israel, only meters away from Gaza. These families share how they love their community and cannot imagine leaving. In recent years, the kibbutz has expanded, with fourteen births in the past year alone. The “but” about this kibbutz is, of course, its proximity to Gaza. Despite living so close to hostile neighbors, the people of Nahal Oz live happily in the Stare of Israel and intend to continue doing so. The video is beautiful, really.
At the same time that this poignant video plays, striking the hearts of 18,000 people who support and advocate for Israel in America, my phone flares up with notifications. I suspect that at least a few thousand other phones in the room also glow with the same news: rockets.
As we sit together, united by our passion for Israel, our Israel is attacked. 6,000 miles away, in the heart of the Middle East, there is a barrage of rockets being hurled at the country that we’re all here to support.
I scroll through the Red Alert notifications on my phone and stop when I read “Nahal Oz”—the same Nahal Oz that was just introduced to 18,000 people as a symbol of vitality. While perhaps Nahal Oz does represent vitality and a sense of resilience, it is not impenetrable. On the contrary, the reality of Nahal Oz is not just this glossy, joyous portrayal of kibbutz life, but rather it is also sirens and bomb shelters and terror.
While the video did touch on the reality of Nahal Oz, it seemed to highlight hope and emphasize life. Hope and life are important, but so is reality.
While I learned an enormous amount during the AIPAC Policy Conference this weekend, the most interesting session I went to was called International Media in Israel. While all the panelists had equally interesting perspectives, what struck me most was when the head of i24 News spoke about creating the channel to share the reality of Israel with the world. Between this session and others, the conference solidified for me that the extent of the battlefield isn’t in the political arena or on the front line, taking on the rockets first hand. Rather, the power of supporting and advocating for Israel through the power of narratives is another noble battle worth fighting now.
The Nahal Oz video showcased the vitality of a community under attack, yet that was only to 18,000 people who already supported Israel. Not everyone can attend the AIPAC Policy Conference and not everyone gets alerts the minute a rocket is fired into Israel. But these stories and this reality needs to be shared if there is any hope of life and continued bipartisan support for Israel.
Rockets have power, but so do stories.