I recall the difficult days of the Yom Kippur War. We lived in a modest neighborhood and while I was visiting my friend, his father, who worked as a tailor, told the family he had just put their life savings of $20,000 into Israel Bonds. It was an important moment for me, to see firsthand the commitment of an American Jew toward Israel in its moment of need.
Forty years later, here are a few of the issues facing Israel. The Arab Spring has come to mean a more aggressive Egypt and an unstable Syria with chemical and biologic weapons. It means Jordan causing mischief along Israel’s eastern border; it means serious weapons from Libya and Syria falling into the hands of terrorists.
The case for stronger action on Iran’s WMD program is more compelling each day. Iran’s mullahs wish to do to the Jews in 12 minutes what Hitler did in 12 years.
We have an opportunity to help do something about this. On May 8, you can join NORPAC on its annual mission to meet with Congress and influence our most powerful federal leaders to stand by Israel, and to help Israel defend herself against the existential threats that emanate from all sides.
Let me illustrate the effectiveness of our advocacy. In 2011, Congress was in budget negotiations. The recession was deep and the foreign aid package which we had generally thought to be an “easy ask” was in jeopardy. NORPAC was in Washington advocating for the $3 billion in foreign aid and a new system in development called the Iron Dome.
During that mission, congressional leadership advised the pro-Israel community that Israel would get the full aid package despite budget problems. However, we were also told the outlook for Iron Dome funding looked grim. Nonetheless, the 1,000 NORPAC members continued to advocate for funding for the then-experimental anti-missile system.
I stayed late for my last meeting to see my friend Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). To my surprise, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Republican caucus chair and fiscal conservative, came out of the voting chamber to join us. Thune reassured me of the full funding for foreign aid to Israel but said the Iron Dome as an experimental system was too expensive at the time.
I gave the senator warm regards from my mother, who was too frail to join us that year. He remembered her well from prior years. I told him of basketball advice my father related to me as a youth: “Short and Jewish, shoot from the outside.” I explained that the engineers in Israel were particularly good at this technology, that this is their outside shot, and we will all benefit from a worthwhile investment even in these pressing times.
Thune, a six-foot-five-inch basketball player, chuckled at the story and in a surprising turnaround, pledged his support for the program. It was min hashamayim (by the grace of God) that NORPAC was in Washington that critical day of budget decisions. NORPAC members in each of over 450 meetings advocated for this little-known program and the tide was turned. By day’s end, it was clear the sense of Congress about the Iron Dome Program was palpably favorable. (That year, the Pentagon invested $204 million on the system.)
We saw the fruits of our labors during last year’s war with Gaza, as the Iron Dome kept missiles from raining on Tel Aviv and enabled Israel to avoid a ground war.
The oversized role that a few determined and committed people can play in our nation is astounding. Going down to Washington with NORPAC is a leveraged way of making oneself heard. Our members have made compelling cases and been key players in promoting legislative initiatives. This year we will have about 475 meetings planned for small NORPAC groups. A sincere citizen advocate in Washington is far more compelling than the most sophisticated lobbyist. Each of you that attend the mission has more influence than the 10,000 that stay at home.
So if you cannot spare the cash, spare the time. Give one day to Israel. Give May 8 to Israel. You can do much more for Israel on May 8 than you can for your clients, patients, employers, employees, and customers. May 8 is the one day when you will do the most good to promote U.S.-Israel relations, and be effective doing your part for the survival of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people.
You can join the NORPAC Mission by visiting Norpac.net or calling 201-788-5133.