Because I know a lot of American Jews and a lot of Israels—along with my own pro Israel Christian community—I know that Israel is quite a different country than that presented by the media.
I wrote recently about the extraordinary work being done by Untold News (www.untoldnews.org). There is another group contributing greatly to the search for truth, peacemaking, and unity.
The America-Israel Friendship League (www.aifl.org) has been around 40-odd years—long enough to help facilitate the rescue of Jews from the Soviet Union, to contributing meaningful dialogue in our post-Oslo world.
AIFL is led by a highly capable team of what I would call humanitarians. They come from varied backgrounds in business, law, and scholarship. One of the amazing initiatives is the “Heroes to Heroes” program, recently led in full color by AIFL President Harley Lippman. He led a most unique trip to the Holy Land.
The September trip to Israel included 10 wounded American vets, from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In part, the purpose was to link the vets with their IDF counterparts. The result was a watershed moment, I think, for American-Israel relations.
“It was the most meaningful, most powerful trip I’ve ever been on, period. It was because I was with wounded American vets from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lippman.
None of the 10 had ever been to Israel, so it was literally the trip of a lifetime.
“The vets were very moved by the Christian and Jewish holy sites,” said Lippman. “And by going to Israel, they were able to connect with their Israeli counterparts and share experiences.” Coincidentally, the group arrived on September 11, and was able to visit the only 9/11 memorial outside the U.S. (at Jerusalem’s Arazim Park).
Israeli technology and innovation is one of the world’s greatest open secrets. The American vets on the AIFL tour were able to see this for themselves. Two of the stops included Hadassah Hospital, and a treatment center at Beit Halochem. The vets were able to see how the Israelis are developing ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the group bonded with their counterparts in the Israeli army. Lifetime friendships were forged.
“There was immediately a powerful connection, between vets,” Lippman remembered.
These men and women are true freedom fighters, in a world that doesn’t always discern that term correctly.
Kudos to the AIFL for making these trips possible. They are a brightly burning light in an increasingly dark world.