My faith has been an inextinguishable light in my life. There are moments where, yes, it flickers and dims, but there are moments where that light burns ever so brightly. Recently, I had the privilege of visiting Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, alongside five other lieutenant governors from across the county. We exchanged ideas with Israeli industry leaders, met with government officials and military leaders, and visited the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the Iron Dome, all while exploring cultural and biblical sites that date back over 3,000 years ago.
Israel is a vibrant country where faith is palpable and warmth is exuded at every turn. We arrived during the festival of Purim, yet another example of the tenacity of the Jewish people. I am reminded that Esther and Mordecai risked their lives to save that of their fellow Jews. We are all called to serve, undoubtedly in different capacities. There is no room for nonchalance when it comes to Israel; “For such a time as this.”
Pride is clearly in the Israeli’s DNA. They do not apologize for their zeal. They promote it. They do not reflect on their trials and lament; they perceive the triumph through their battles. They do not wallow in defeat; they learn and surge in victory.
As I walked the halls of Yad Vashem and seeing portraits of those innocent souls lost, I thought about our Holocaust survivors in Florida and I reflected on my own moral responsibility as a public servant. The phrase “never again” compels us to fight against hatred in all its forms and challenges us to confront today’s polarization so that we build stronger, safer and more unified communities.
We had the privilege of hearing from some of the world’s most prominent diplomats and leaders, including Ambassadors Ron Dermer, David Friedman, and Dore Gold, as well as the previous and current prime ministers. Our discussions focused on how we can protect our mutual national security interests by maintaining strong alliances. America’s unbreakable bond with Israel is essential if we are to see peace in the region and beyond.
Furthermore, the concern about the ongoing negotiations with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, left me disheartened that the Biden administration will once again be fooled into thinking we can negotiate with terrorists. What was once viewed as America’s peace through strength diplomacy has spiraled into chaos through betrayal.
One of the other themes in each of our discussions is Israel’s innovation in the high tech industries. In Florida, we have benefited from various Israeli companies spurring cutting-edge research in everything from healthcare to cyber and space exploration. In addition to being a beacon for innovation and democracy, Israel is home to the most important religious sites in the world, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.
We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and here in Israel, I was able to walk in his footsteps and that of his disciples as they spread the good news. I am emboldened and ignited in my faith. How can I describe the emotions of being baptized in the Jordan River, praying at the Temple Mount walls, visiting the tombs of the matriarch and patriarchs or walking on the pilgrimage road? There are simply no words.
Growing up in a city like Miami, we are immersed in the Jewish religion. We have friends, family and neighbors that are Jewish. In fact, my aunt was married to a Jewish man, who we affectionately called Uncle Kenny. But, seeing Israel through the eyes of others is a step removed from the wonders of Israel.
The eternal capital, Jerusalem, means the city of peace. Sadly, due to aggressors who have sought to destroy, annihilate and oppress over thousands of years, they have not experienced the type of lasting peace they deserve.
Elie Wiesel declared, “Even in darkness it is possible to create light.” As I reflect on the many business meetings and briefings with political leaders, my fellow lieutenant governors and I have a renewed sense of purpose. Our states must rise to the occasion. We must encourage leaders at every level to closely reevaluate policies, such as the disastrous Iran Deal.
We must not allow BDS and antisemitism in any form to gain a foothold. We must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. Together, we have a responsibility to carry the torch and be the light, like so many before us. This visit has been an encounter like none other. An encounter with beauty, light and resilience.
Israel, though small geographically, is a country with an enormous impact. The warmth of a Shabbat dinner juxtaposed with the gravity of Yad Vashem. The technology boom of Haifa and Tel Aviv contrasted with the Old City of David. History, in the present, paving the future.
The writer is lieutenant governor of Florida.