Remarkable diversity of the pro-Israel community at DePaul

(Photo courtesy of Cameron Erickson and Lyric Metroplos)
(Photo courtesy of Cameron Erickson and Lyric Metroplos)

When people hear the term ‘Israel Advocate’ a certain connotation may come into mind. When we both arrived to campus – Cameron in 2011, and Lyric in 2014 – we had very little passion or connection to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

When we came to DePaul, we both had no perceptions of how strong of a presence the Arab-Israeli conflict held on college campuses across the country. Anti-Israel posters accusing Israel as being the source of all of the woes and conflict in the world made us start to seek the truth as to what the situation was in the Middle East.

We also had no idea that there was such a large political base of support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship in the United States. This support includes people of all political backgrounds, including Jews, Christians, Democrats, Republicans and more.

Thus enters the AIPAC Policy Conference, which we both attended March 1-3 this year. It was inspiring to see the attendance from DePaul this year grow from just one student – Cameron – in 2013, to a whopping 12 delegates from DePaul this year.

It was a surreal experience entering an environment in which there were 16,000 people that were passionate about a movement that we had become so passionate about over the last few years.

This year, the Policy Conference was sold out for the first time since its conception in 1963. With attendance like this, it is clear that AIPAC garners its strength from the remarkable diversity of its stakeholders. As we walked through the Policy Conference, all of the thanks we received for being students passionate about this conflict made it clear that the members of AIPAC understand that our generation holds the key to the movement’s success or failure. This gratified came from various attendees from all walks of life: African Americans, Hispanics, LGBT, women, progressives from the East, and conservatives from the heartland.

Another strength of the pro-Israel movement is how many young people are engaged. This is because AIPAC understands young people, and knows how to connect with us. As we told different friends at DePaul that we were going to attend this conference, the question always arose, “what are you going to do there?”

I told them about the various breakout sessions that catered to my array of interests in a pro-Israel context. Not only did I sit in on sessions concerning the state of women in the Middle East, and Israel’s borders, but I also had the pleasure of watching a renowned Israeli chef make hummus.

It is these exciting, informative and most importantly Middle East-related sessions that allow students like myself to understand the amazing advances happening in Israel today. A dull moment never took place and we were captivated by the overwhelming energy.

Cameron spoke on a panel titled “Defeating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)” along with other students who have used detractor activity such as BDS to actually make strategic inroads for the pro-Israel community on their campus. The audience was a packed room of students –several of the over 3,000 that attended –and also an overwhelming amount of adults in the room who are so supportive of the next generation of activists.

We’re two students that have come into this issue from very different perspectives. However, through AIPAC and this movement, we have both been able to be activists for a cause that we believe so strongly in. Perhaps that’s why, because of our hard work, we were able to win the AIPAC Activist of the Year award at Policy Conference this year.

For more information on how you can get involved, find “Demon PAC – Students Supporting Israel at DePaul” on Facebook.