Photo is of Jahan Berns with Alabama Senator Luther Strange.
Love For Israel Lifted By AIPAC
The following was written by Birmingham Jewish Federation board member Jahan Berns.
Jahan was raised as a Muslim in Uganda, later converted to Christianity, and eventually made her way to Birmingham where she is an attorney at the law firm of Sirote & Permutt. She is a passionate friend of Israel and the Jewish people.
This year, Jahan went to the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Here is what Jahan wrote about her experience.
The Jerusalem Post carried an article about members of Uganda’s Jewish community, the Abayudaya, who realized their lifelong dream of visiting Israel!
As I read about their joy, I imagined their excitement at being able to finally make it to the land they had yearned for after so many years! I can identify with that deep yearning, as well as the flood of emotions that course through your whole being once you actually get to see and experience Israel.
Last year’s Jewish Federation-sponsored trip to Israel was life changing for me! I have never been to a place that I yearned to go back to so much! Every now and then, I go to YouTube and watch different people singing Hatkiva (Israel’s national anthem) — the Jewish people’s hope and longing for a free homeland stirs my heart in a way that so few things can. I think it is one of the reasons that makes me and millions of other people stand with Israel; I think it is partly the reason I attended my first AIPAC conference this year.
Just like our efficient Birmingham Jewish Federation, AIPAC is a well-oiled machine operating seamlessly — on a much bigger scale. I met AIPAC Southeast Region Christian Director Joshua Ehrich a few weeks ago when he came to Birmingham to meet some key leaders in our Birmingham Christian community to discuss security concerns regarding our Levite Jewish Community Center. Ehrich, an intelligent and passionate enthusiast for both AIPAC and Israel, was a great asset in helping me understand AIPAC and preparing for the conference. He was right — I was literally blown away by how incredible this year’s policy conference was!
My trip to Washington D.C. started with a bang; my son broke his arm as I was preparing to attend my first AIPAC activities. I was as devastated by his pain as I was at my own anguish of missing some of the first activities and sessions that I had been greatly looking forward to.
When I finally made my way close to the conference venue (the convention center), I realized I had to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way; there were protesters blocking the street. “How can they protest something so good?” I thought with dismay as I crossed the street to find the entrance to the convention center.
I was not prepared for the sight that greeted my eyes when I walked into the venue! AIPAC 2017 was a mighty throng! There were thousands and thousands of animated faces and voices. I was thrilled and excited; I instantly felt at home! I suddenly remembered the protesters and felt sorry for them for wasting their time.
As AIPAC participants — thousands and thousands of us — we were there with our collective voice to support/stand up for Israel, and to work toward stronger ties with Israel; therefore no amount of disapproval from protesters was going to dissuade us. I must confess that I felt a strong sense of satisfaction at seeing that we had the bigger numbers on our side.
There was a lot to learn during the policy conference. The session choices were so rich and versatile that it was hard to pick and choose — the conference was one place where it felt good to be greedy — the content was outstanding! The speakers were so knowledgeable and persuasive, that I considered a career switch — drop the law practice and embrace a career in fighting the European BDS movement. (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions which is an international movement to destabilize and weaken Israel.)
The conference evoked so many good emotions: I was so proud of the president of Rwanda Paul Kagame — he shared how looking up to Israel is helping his African country of Rwanda to heal from the wounds of genocide. I was grateful for the bi-partisan spirit as Democrats and Republicans presented a united front on the importance of strong US-Israel ties; the connections made with fellow participants were deep and heartfelt; and the speeches by our leaders, especially US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, left you without a doubt that the UN’s days of unfairly bashing Israel and openly embracing anti-Semitism are over!
I left DC filled with warm thoughts and great optimism for the future. As we made our way home, and as I told my children about the great lessons learned from AIPAC, I looked at my son’s twisted arm closed off in an unattractive looking cast. I cautioned him of the dangers of breaking limbs under the delusion of being a Power Ranger. In my mind, the real superheroes to be emulated are people like David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s founding prime minister) and Nikki Haley, of course!
Click for the Jerusalem Post’s article on Uganda.