Jolie Bain Pillsbury

Stand with Israel

On a Wednesday morning in March my friend and I, two supporters of Israel from northern Virginia, make our way up the wide steps of the Longworth House Office Building. Built in the 1930’s, it is a neoclassical design graced with ionic columns, dignified yet not too ornamental. We are part of a crowd slowly passing under the portico arches to the front doors.

The gentleman behind me is wearing the crossed flags of the Ukraine and United States on his lapel. I am wearing my Jewish star necklace. Smiling and with a nod at his flag pins, I wish him luck. He with a glance at my star, says: “you too”. Not even through the doors and already the essential advocacy for two countries at war seem conjoined: two battle fronts; one war.

Providing military and diplomatic support to Israel is a federal matter. We are here for a meeting with a senior staff person to Representative Don Beyer of Virginia’s 8th Congressional District. Virginia is a large state and Israel is a small country. To get a sense of the comparative scale, the population of Virginia is just under 9 million and the population of Israel just over 9 million. However, geographically there is a greater disparity. Israel’s total territory is 4.7 times smaller than Virginia’s.

Longworth HOB, Washington, DC, 3/6/24, photo by Jolie Bain Pillsbury

This is our first time visiting the Longworth House Office Building. Directionally challenged, we end up on the wrong floor. This proves to be a provident mistake. For just as we get off the elevator, we see a whole wall of flags and posters. “I stand with Israel”, “I stand with Ukraine”, “Remember Our Fallen Heroes”, a picture of one of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas who has since been released. This is Representative Joe Wilson’s office. Energized, encouraged, I enter his office to express my appreciation for this visible support.

Representative Wilson’s district is in South Carolina. Though not a constituent, the receptionist is delighted to hear from me. As a bonus, I leave with a small packet of South Carolina peanuts in my pocket.

Congressman Don Beyer’s Office, Washington, DC, 3/6/24, photo by Jolie Bain Pillsbury

Back on the right track we walk down the first-floor corridor towards Congressman Beyer’s office, passing more “I Stand with Israel” signs, Israeli flags next to American flags, and a “bring them home” poster with pictures of all the hostages. We reach Congressman Beyer’s office. A bright “rainbow flag” and a “Bans off our Bodies” sign are on the door. Both resonate, these two causes are also close to our hearts. There is no visible sign of support for Israel. What are we to make of this?

We turn around to walk the corridor again, counting the number of representative’s offices displaying flags and signs. Of the other eight offices, four had signs of support for Israel and four had no signs. Half of the Congressman’s neighbors along the hall are visibly “standing with Israel”, he is not. We enter his office with a thought. Since lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Israel are considered among the most developed in the Middle East and Asia perhaps Congressman Beyer can be persuaded to add a “I Stand with Israel” sign to his front door next to the rainbow flag.

Our time goes by quickly. We are grateful to be meeting in the Representative’s office, hearing from a knowledgeable and committed staff person. In our conversation we are learning why Congressman Beyer voted against the “anti-Zionism is antisemitism bill” and made public statements demanding an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war.

We are told that Representative Beyer is confident that the very large and powerful US naval presence deployed by President Biden is an effective deterrent and a cease fire will not be dangerous for Israel. Israel does not need to continue to wage war against Hamas in Gaza, because the deterrent of US forces along with sufficient support for Iron Dome eliminates any existential threat. I make a note of the following, “They (Hezbollah and Iran) won’t attempt to destroy Israel because they know that if they do, the United States will retaliate.”

I am dismayed. This belief in the effectiveness of US forces as a deterrent seems to be unrealistic and poses an enormous risk for Israel. What value to Israel is a retaliation that comes only after its destruction? I share with him my experience visiting Nir Oz and Kibbutz Be’eri in the first week of January 2024. I saw the devastation of the homes and the places where Hamas and their Gazan supporters murdered and burned Israelis. This attack was facilitated by a massive barrage of rockets that overwhelmed the Iron Dome system.

According to Sullivan and Amble’s 2023 article published by the Modern War Institute at West Point, Hamas launched “between 2,200 and 3,000 rockets in just twenty minutes” on October 7th. That morning Iron Dome was overwhelmed by four to six times as many rockets launched in an hour than had previously been launched in twenty-four hours. The Alma Center, an Israeli education and research center focused on the security challenges in the north, estimates that Hezbollah has 65,000 short range rockets and missiles and 145,000 mortars. Hezbollah has publicly stated that Iran is continuing to supply them with weapons including perhaps a hundred precision missiles.

Even as we were meeting that day, Houthis undeterred by the presence of the US and allied naval forces in the Red Sea were attacking ships and disrupting the sea lanes. Hezbollah’s continued rocket attacks in the north were keeping over 90,000 Israelis from returning to their homes in the north. Having listened to each other’s point of view on Israel’s security, we agree to disagree and move on to the issue of antisemitism.

We hear that the Congressman’s vote against the bill stating that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” reflected his understanding that some Haredi sects in America are anti-Zionist. Therefore, anti-Zionism per se can not be antisemitism. I understand but do not agree. The Haredi theological opposition to the modern state of Israel is not the source of the wave of antisemitism currently engulfing our country. The Haredi are not the ones marching in the streets, breaking windows on college campuses and screaming “From the river to the sea” and “Death to the Jews”. It is a radical coalition, members of whom, against all reason carry rainbow flags to their pro-Hamas rallies. This is the anti-Zionism that by its own public words and deeds is antisemitic.

After this frank exchange of views, we thank Mr. McGowan for the opportunity to share our ideas and concerns. We let him know how encouraged we are to hear that Congressman Beyer intends to continue to support Israel and vote for additional military aid.

In parting I again mention the “rainbow flag”. I ask if Representative Beyer would consider putting a “I Stand with Israel” sign on his door given the positive role Israel plays in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the Middle East. The staff person responded that they didn’t have such a poster. I offered to send him one and he said: “the decision about posters is not mine to make.”

Later that day, I reflected on the essence of representative democracy. The 8th Congressional District where I live has a population of 764,000. Any one of us can request a meeting with our representative or write a letter expressing our views. I realized that I very much wanted Congressman Beyer to more visibly “stand with Israel”.

My one voice among so many has very little chance of influencing a decision, but remaining silence has no chance. So, I am sending my “I Stand with Israel” poster along with this letter to Congressman Beyer in hopes that he will even more visibly “Stand with Israel”.

Dear Congressman Beyer,

We appreciated the opportunity to meet with your staff person and learn more about your position, votes and public statements about Israel and antisemitism. We are grateful for the time he spent with us. We also are very grateful for the support you and President Biden have provided to Israel over the years and especially since October 7th. We ask that you to continue your support by quickly passing a bill to provide the urgently needed additional military aid to Israel, Ukraine, and other United States allies.

 I have a request. The request is that you place the enclosed “I Stand with Israel” sign next to your “Bans off Our Bodies” sign and “Rainbow Flag” on your door. Israel is one of the only countries in the Middle East where women are fully enfranchised and where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can live without being arrested, imprisoned or perhaps flogged or beheaded.

Placing the “I Stand with Israel” sign next to the rainbow flag on your door would send a much-needed message that by supporting Israel you are supporting human rights. This message matters, since contrary to the omnipresent anti-Zionist propaganda Arab Israelis, Druze, Bedouins, and other religious and ethnic groups are enfranchised and an active part of a representative democracy in Israel.

I also ask you to reconsider your view that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. As you are probably aware, in the late 1940’s the Arab states used the accusation of “Zionism” to violently attack Jews. Even before the state of Israel was established those Jewish populations, some of whom had lived in these countries for thousands of years, were forced to flee to survive. Many hundreds of thousands of them found a home in Israel. 

In the years since Israel’s War of Independence, over 900,000 Jews fled or were expelled from most of the countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia essentially leaving most of these countries with very small or no Jewish populations. The violence and calls for the destruction of Israel that we are seeing in the streets and on the campuses of our country are all too reminiscent of the tipping point of hatred that foreshadowed the Holocaust in Europe and the ethnic cleansing of Jews from most of the Middle East since WW2. 

By placing, this “I Stand with Israel” sign outside your office, I feel you would be letting everyone who walks down one of the most significant power corridors in the world, know that in a very dangerous time, Israel stands for human rights, and you stand with Israel. It will signal that you support Israel as it confronts an existential threat from an enemy whose publicly stated policy is the genocide of the Jewish people. As we know from our own country’s history, there is only one effective way to deter such an enemy: defeat of them.

This is the sixth month of a terrible war. One that is taking a tragic toll on the civilian population that Hamas uses as human shields, on the hostages Hamas refuses to release and on the people of Israel. Even as the people of Israel and Gaza are faced with the consequences of this terrible war, over 50% of the people of the United States remain strong in their support Israel.  If you decide, as I hope you will, to post the “I Stand with Israel” poster on your door, then along this one corridor of power, 55% of the representatives will also be visibly “standing with Israel”. A hopeful sign of representative democracy in action at a time when our own country struggles to find common ground.

Thank you again for the opportunity to meet with your staff.  Thank you for your support of Israel, Ukraine, our other allies, and those who serve in the military of the United States of America. Thank you for your service on behalf of your constituents.


Jolie Bain Pillsbury

About the Author
Jolie Bain Pillsbury, Ph D. Retired, residing in Arlington, Virginia. Public and private sector career focused on producing measurable results through the development of cross-sector collaborative leadership skills. Author of “The Theory of Aligned Contributions” and “Results Based Facilitation: Books 1 & 2.
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