What a day! Two Presidents in one place at the same time!
The morning started off early. We were told to report to the security lines by 7:00 am for a 9:30 am program start. Everyone had to go through two security lines – one for the convention center, the other for the secret service. No food or drink allowed inside. Fortunately for a colleague who did not eat breakfast, I had a Cliff bar that had to be eaten or thrown out.
Once inside it was 1 1/2 hours of waiting. The hall is huge – it has to be to hold 13,000 people! I did ask if there was a Rabbi section – the security guard just smiled. That’s ok, I met some great people and for the next 1 1/2 we bonded!
Finally, it was time! The program began with a panel discussion including anchor from Israel Channel 2 news and Liz Cheney. Let’s just say, she had some very strong opinions regarding President Obama.
Next, a beautiful video about President Shimon Peres. He is 88 years old, but the strength and endurance of a young determined man. When leaving Poland in 1934, his grandfather who was not well enough to travel with him said, “Shimon, stay Jewish.” Those three words shaped his life and career. It is in and through Israel that he keeps that promise to his grandfather. In a matter of weeks, Shimon Peres will receive the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
Then it was time for President Obama. He received a warm but cautious welcome. His speech was everything that we want to hear from our President. His support of Israel, commitment to not allowing Iran create nuclear weapons, and commitment to the Jewish community. You can read his remarks here.
The morning plenary came to a close and it was time for lunch and break out sessions. Lunch was great – dim sum in China Town. The break out session was a wonderful study session with clergy and scholars from the Shalom Hartman Institute.
The day ended with a final plenary including remarks by the new President of AIPAC and a discussion with renowned reporters from different agencies. Each of them were entertaining and informative in discussing the elections ahead.
It was a very full day and now, it’s time to get some rest to start it all over again tomorrow. Tomorrow brings Nancy Pelosi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just when you think you have a semblance of order of some information, they give you more to make it even more complex.