I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference this year for my first time. I attended several seminars with topics ranging from digital health innovations in Israel to BDS in Europe. However, one of the more notable seminars I attended was an interfaith panel featuring Reverend Flowers, Pastor Rivera, and Rabbi White. Since we live in a predominantly Christian world, and a predominantly Christian America, I wanted to hear how each of these religious leaders promotes Israel in their communities.
Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the table. Pastor Rivera, a Hispanic leader in his community, spoke about how important Israel is to him. He attended the American Israel Education Fund (AIEF) trip where he learned about the sociopolitical dynamic of Israel on an extensive tour and learned more about how he could support Israel in his congregation. Pastor Rivera is in a unique position since his congregation includes a U.S. congressman. His position allows him to preach to politicians about his support for Israel and why it is so important.
Reverend Flowers was able to add some insight as to why Israel is such a special place for Christians. Reverend Flowers represents a black community where he preaches about Israel and encourages his members to visit if they have the means to do so. During the seminar, he vocalized this concept that Africa is his ancestral homeland, and that Israel is his spiritual homeland. Originally, Reverend Flowers had preached about Israel as the Holy Land, which holds several important locations in relation to Jesus’s life, as well as Old Testament significance. However, after he visited Israel with AIEF, he realized it was more than just the Holy Land, but an autonomous country in its own right. A special moment for him was when he prayed at the Western Wall and heard the Muslim call to prayer while simultaneously hearing a nearby rabbi pray. He realized that all three of them were praying to the same God. Israel is one of the few places in the world where one might be able to have that experience. Reverend Flowers believes in a strong connection with Israel and promotes that within his community. He facilitates interfaith discussions with the local Jewish community and emphasizes the importance of support for Israel.
Finally, we heard from Rabbi White and how he promotes support of Israel within his own community. Rabbi White self-identifies as a progressive, and therefore I did not find we had a lot in common politically, but he had some interesting points nonetheless. He states that each day Israel struggles with social justice conflict, but the fact that it is struggling, means that it is trying. He also cited that it is difficult to determine the truth of what occurs in the Middle East because if one reads the newspaper, he is misinformed; if one does not read the newspaper, he is uniformed. Therefore, education is essential when it comes to Israeli and Middle Eastern affairs. All of the panelists agreed that education was vital in turning indifference into activism. Rabbi White stated that he talks to all of his students before they go to college about Israel and the importance of our continuing support.
It was good to learn that there are people from varying ethnicities and religions who believe in the same cause we the Jewish people do; Israel is important to all of us for different reasons, but we can all come together to support the same message: We will stand with Israel. AIPAC’s slogan, “Many Voices, One Mission,” was seamlessly incorporated into this seminar and demonstrated the multifaceted tapestry of people who support Israel.