If there was anything that I learned from attending the CAMERA conference a few days back, then it was that sprinting towards an unmarked finish line is impossible. Seven years have passed since I started running toward a goal that is simultaneously rewarding and destructive. Rewarding, because every stretch of ground gained makes me feel victorious. Destructive, because when I am unable to properly stand up for what I believe in, I want to crawl in a corner and hide. For every victory, I am elated. For every defeat, I temporarily lose hope in my what I am fighting for. But without fail, I always find myself ready to fight another day each time I wake up to the sight of the Israeli flag upon the walls of my college dorm.
By defending Israel, I am fulfilling the dreams that my ancestors of the last three thousand years yearned for. My great-grandparents came to the United States seeking asylum from the pogroms in the Russian Empire. I can only imagine what joy they experienced when the State of Israel was formed sixty-five years ago.
When I recognize that my mother was the first generation of her extended family to be born with the Jewish state in existence, it fills me with a sense of awe that the majority of the world can never truly understand nor appreciate. It is for those reasons that I am lucky to be Jewish and why I feel obligated to defend Israel’s existence. Never again will I allow myself to remain silent and let my fellow Jews and my homeland be criticized unjustly. Never again shall we forget the sacrifices of those who came before us; those who passed away without setting their eyes on the Kotel.
Everyone who dedicates their life or part of their lives to CAMERA recognizes the reality on the ground. By attending this conference, the next generation of Jewish leaders and Israel advocates have become increasingly prepared for the battles that lie ahead. When CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin concluded the conference with a presentation on the Ten Principles, every student in the room had something to say about them. Everything that was said was dead-on and indisputably correct. With this sense of motivation, it is impossible to doubt that we, as CCAP Liaisons and Fellows, have a huge job to do and that we are prepared for the challenges that face us.
Seven years ago, I started defending the State of Israel from a strong anti-Israel student body at my high school. I stood my ground as the lone soldier on the information front while the foot soldiers defending Israel were scrutinized for Cast Lead and for the Flotilla raid. I learned the hard way that if I go all out, attempting to sway the opinions of the apathetic, then I become tired, exhausted, and angry.
As individuals, we have to work to set certain goals that we can see on the horizon. Can we influence the opinions of the apathetic? Can we bring together populations of Jews and Zionists away from the misleading idealism of J Street and command a larger force of pro-Israel advocates? Can we convince that the apartheid comparison is wrong and that Students for Justice in Palestine is perpetuating an idea that is far fetched in reality?
Those are the goals that I have set forth for myself and the goals I wish to convey when I return to my campus in a little more than a week. We, as student advocates for Israel, have to set our own individual pace to finish this laborious marathon. Perhaps one day, we can all come together and celebrate both our smaller and our larger victories. In moments like these, I like to quote my late Senator Ted Kennedy: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Good luck to everyone! I’ll see you on the information front!
Contributed by Pitzer College CCAP Liaison ’13-’14 Elliott Hamilton