My Experience in Israel
An Open Journal
Written by Rep. Jon Hardister, NC House Majority Whip
By Jon Hardister – In October 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Israel with a group of Americans. We were invited to participate in a trip that was organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is affiliated with AIPAC. It was the experience of a lifetime.
On this trip our group visited numerous historical sites, government facilities and landmarks. We spent time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as various community settlements (known as kibbutz) throughout the country. We visited the border of the Gaza Strip, the border of Lebanon, and the Golan Heights, which borders Syria.
Other notable sites that we visited include the Old City, the Western Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, the Knesset, the Dead Sea, Masada, Independence Hall, and the Sea of Galilee.
During our trip we were provided with a tour guide, a bus tour and a security detail. The organizers of the trip did an excellent job keeping us on a detail itinerary each day in order to maximize our time so we could learn as much as possible.
There is much that impressed me about Israel. It is a relatively small country in geography, yet is is incredibly strong and prosperous. Israel as a flourishing economy, an innovative private sector and a very strong military. Cutting-edge IT development, scientific research and agricultural advancements are major components of their economy.
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been subjected to constant threat from neighboring enemies. Israelis have had to fight to protect their freedom since the first day of their existence as an independent state. The Israeli Defense Force works constantly to protect and defend their home from deadly attacks.
We visited with Israelis who told us stories about friends and relatives who were killed or injured by rocket attacks. The people of Israel live under constant threat, yet they are incredibly resilient and optimistic. This says something remarkable about the human spirit.
On our triple met with officers in the IDF, including a General. We met with a member of the Knesset, a member of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, health care professionals, business owners, historians and members of the press. We learned a great deal from these individuals and their stories were fascinating.
The United States and Israel have much in common. We both believe in individual liberty, freedom of religion and democracy. Our citizens share the values of peace, prosperity and the right to pursue happiness. It makes perfect sense for the United States and Israel to supporteach other’s shared interest on the world stage.
In my adult years I have always believed it is important to support Israel. This is why I sponsored a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly that prevents state agencies from investing in companies that are involved with the BDS Movement. However, my resolve to support Israel as an international friend and ally have been enhance by my trip.
There are clear and present threats that Israel must contend with on a daily basis. Peace is the ultimate goal, but Israel must reman strong and the United States must stand with them. We must encourage the U.S. Congress to stand with Israel and to continue advocating for peace while also maintaining a strong and capable defense force.
The people who I met and the experiences that I had in Israel with stay with me for a lifetime. I hope to visit again one day. As a state legislator, I will do everything within my power to help maintain a strong alliance between the United States and Israel.
The friendship between our two countries is invaluable. It must be protected and preserved for generations to come.
The above article appeared in the January 2018 issue of Shalom Greensboro, a publication of the Greensboro Jewish Federation.