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In June, ACYPL welcomed a delegation of seven young leaders from Israel to the United States in conjunction with the Israel Youth Exchange Authority. Traveling throughout Washington, DC and the state of Nebraska, the delegates brought with them unique perspectives as advisors to elected officials in the Knesset, advisors to the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and high-level members of Israel’s political parties. Among the seven were representatives from five different parties, which resulted in vibrant discussions on American politics, in addition to the relationship between the US and Israel.
The program began in Washington, DC with meetings at the US Department of State and the Embassy of Israel. These opportunities to speak with diplomats laid the foundation for insight into the future of this bilateral relationship at organizations such as J Street, the American Enterprise Institute, and a meeting with ACYPL alum Congressman Adrian Smith. Also enlightening was the chance to attend a taping of Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. During the show, US Senators Bernie Sanders and Ron Johnson discussed healthcare policy from the perspective of their parties, which was a valuable glimpse into the mechanisms of the US two-party system.
Upon arrival in Nebraska, the delegation spent a day at the Nebraska State Capitol, meeting the Governor, the Secretary of State, and several state senators from the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature; this experience offered a dynamic comparison between Nebraska’s state government and the unicameral Knesset of Israel. Additional meetings included the Nebraska Press Association, Union Pacific Railroad, and the Jewish Federation of Omaha. Agricultural site visits to a water well pump hoist manufacturing plant, a cattle farm, and an ethanol plant were well received by the group and showcased Nebraska’s agrarian sector.
Outside of formal meetings, the group toured Washington, DC’s monuments, visited the Nebraska National Guard, and attended a Shabbat home hospitality dinner. The delegates returned to Israel with a deeper understanding of both the US-Israeli relationship and the American heartland. In addition, participants forged new friendships with one another through many lively debates on Israeli and American politics alike. As one delegate explained, “I [now] understand how I can contribute to the relationship between Israel and the US, thanks to what I learned and the connections I now have.”