Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, arrives onstage on an ambucycle at the AIPAC conference in Washington.
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH)
When I rode out onto that stage of the AIPAC plenary session on my United Hatzalah ambucycle in front of 16,000 cheering people in Washington last week, I was speechless.
The love of Israel and for those who support it was so tangibly electrifying that I was struck with awe. I always thought that AIPAC was all about explaining the Israeli position to the US president, political establishment and general public. It is surely that, but it is so much more.
It brings together so many people from such a diverse range of backgrounds. Left and Right, young and old, Republican and Democrat, religious and secular, African- Americans and Native Israelis and dozens of subsets from each of the 50 US states and every stream of Judaism.
I was honored to meet an eclectic group of esteemed rabbis from across the religious spectrum who came to AIPAC and the United Hatzalah pavilion. These rabbinic volunteers, supporters and friends: modern-Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and haredi, included Rabbi Howard Zack of the Main Street Synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, United Hatzalah Board Member Rabbi Erica Gerson of Short Hills, New Jersey, Rabbi Adam Feldman from The Jewish Center in Princeton, New Jersey, and United Hatzalah EMT Rabbi Daniel Katzenstein, formerly of Dallas, Texas. What is the secret power that brings all these divergent opinion- holders together? The laser-like unity of purpose that was abundantly evident in the run-up to my presentation has only been refined as I reflect on those wonderful days together.
Finding a common enemy in Iran and a common cause in Israel was critical to unifying these disparate elements.
But the energy that was displayed in the AIPAC Village contained a deeper and more universal force than that. The fusion was possible when we realized that the bonds that pull us together are greater than the forces that push us apart.
When the parents of the three teens murdered by Hamas last summer took to the stage, we were given a powerful lesson in regal reaction to unfathomable loss.
They noted the diversity of the Jewish people and the physical distance that separates its brothers and sisters, but drew the focus to our common loving heart that unifies us in times of tragedy and struggle. The urged us to reach inside this wellspring of love and kindness and activate it in our daily lives, as was the guiding light of their three sons in their short lives.
This found most poignant expression during the frantic search for the boys. I remember those 18 days of doubt, fear and concern. People of all backgrounds reached out to one another for any tidbit of information, sliver of hope and word of encouragement.
Virtually every man, woman and child in Israel and abroad included the names of Gil- Ad, Naftali and Eyal in their thoughts and prayers.
AIPAC invited United Hatzalah to this year’s conference on innovation because of the way our organization merges Israeli ingenuity, medicine and technology with the Jewish humanitarian traits of care, compassion and the healing arts. As the AIPAC conference showed the power of unity across the spectrum of diversity, United Hatzalah in its own way brings together volunteers from all walks of life with a common goal of saving lives in the fastest, most efficient and most professional manner possible without regard to race, religion or political opinion. In a way, AIPAC , United Hatzalah and the beating heart of the international Jewish community is Israel’s secret weapon.
The writer is the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel and president of the US-based organization Friends of United Hatzalah.