Who We Are

An Independence Day Message from the AFOSE President

Kevin Lipson

kevin@afose.org | 202-909-9345

July 4  marks the 9th month of Israel’s defensive war in Gaza, the 271st day of captivity for hostages still held by Hamas terrorists,  and  Independence Day here in America.

There has rarely  been a more challenging time to be a Zionist or  a Jew. We are inundated with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate from virtually all corners of the political spectrum.

Even our once reliable political allies seem to have been seduced by simplistic assumptions about  who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors, who are indigenous and who are colonialists, who are  protected by democratic institutions and who are repressed ,  who are tolerant and who are messengers of hate, who value life and who worship death.

Moral clarity has been muddled. And America seems to have become an unsafe place to be a Jew or  a supporter of Israel.

But despite the challenges, there are glimmers of hope.  I live in Port Clyde, Maine,  a small and picturesque coastal  town. It’s a Norman Rockwellian village of about 350 people– mostly hard working fishermen, lobstermen and women, carpenters and the like. It’s a rare mixture of multi- generational locals and summer folks that spans the economic and social spectrum. Political views vary.

It is colloquially and affectionately called “Port Clyde, America” because it reflects the best of American values- faith, family, hard work, patriotism, neighborliness, honesty and reliability. People are judged by their character and their commitment to community. Extremism and intolerance have no quarter here. There are  very few Jews.

World affairs seem a world away in Port Clyde. But basic rules of fairness,  honesty  and truth prevail, and people's compasses tend to point true North.

On October 8– one day after the Hamas massacre of Jews and non-Jews, I was struck to see– in the middle of a
large field on the main road to  this tiny town– a large  Israel flag displayed prominently  by an anonymous resident.

Over the following 9 months, I have counted more than a dozen visible displays of support for Israel and the United States /Israel alliance.  Flags, yard signs and banners proudly proclaim that support for the Jewish state is an expression of American values.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude and heartened by support from  these non-Jews who recognized the simple choice between right and wrong, between truth and lies, and between good and evil.

Here, in Port Clyde, America, there is no need for “context.” Here, in Port Clyde, America, when you kidnap, murder, rape,  mutilate, and attack, self defense is not only warranted, it’s expected.  Here, in Port Clyde, America, we defend the values that make America — and Israel–what  they are: “a light unto the nations.”

So as we celebrate the independence of the greatest nation in the the history of civilization, there is cause for optimism. Support for Israel is an American value.  It’s not complicated.  It doesn’t need to be contextualized. It’s not nuanced. It’s simple. And it’s right.

We need you. Am Yisrael Chai

October 7, 2023 changed everything for Jews and non-Jews everywhere. In Israel, the infiltration of 3000 terrorists shattered the illusion of Israel’s invincibility, and left in its wake 1300 people murdered, raped, burned, beheaded, desecrated or abducted. The entire nation has been shaken to its core.

In the United States, our complacency and security as Jews has been jarringly shattered as we confront Jew hatred and anti Israel hatred on a scale and volume that we have never experienced in our lifetimes.

AFOSE exists to fight this hatred. By contributing to AFOSE’s educational and cultural programs with the IDF, Magen David Adom or agricultural opportunities –all through Sar El–you will help equip an army of Jewish and non Jewish alumni to engage and combat anti Jewish and anti Israel hatred. You will help volunteers tell the truth about the resiliency and morals of Israel as a nation and as individuals.

Apart from the usual extreme right haters, we have witnessed the rise of a perverse progressivism that has simplistically and wrong-headedly determined that Israel and Jews are oppressors, white settler colonialists, apartheid adherents, genocidal monsters and ethnic cleansers.

 One thing is clear: the distinction between anti Jewish and anti Israel hate has been destroyed. Slogans like “Rape is resistance,” “Gas the Jews,” “Babies are Occupiers Too,” and “Globalize the Intifada” demonstrate the complete blending of ignorance, Jew hatred and Israel hatred.

For non Jews, the issue is also clear: attacks on Jews and Israel are attacks on western civilization. Moral clarity reinforced what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks prophetically said: “What begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.”

But we- Jews and non Jews- are not helpless. We must confront, educate, engage and combat hatred wherever it arises. We must renew our Committment to Truth, to Community and to Engagement.

AFOSE is committed to fulfilling these commitments: In our Committment to Truth: AFOSE will educate the haters about the nature of Israel as the greatest anti colonial experiment in the history of the world. AFOSE funded programs will remind the world that Jews- from Judea- settled in the land of Israel some 16 centuries before Islam was even a religion. No people in the history of the world has a greater connection to a land than Jews to Israel. That connection did not begin in 1948.

Please help us with this important work. Volunteer, contribute, speak out, engage, educate and participate.

AFOSE sponsored volunteers will remind the haters that– rather than white settler colonialists — Israelis are a diverse blend of Mizrachis from North Africa, Africans from Ethiopia and Ashkenazim from Europe.

Let us remind the haters that any suggestion of “ethnic cleansing” is belied by demographics. In 1947, there were 950,000 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Today, there are 5.4 million. If Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing, they stink at it.

In response to the claims of “apartheid,” let us remind the world that 20 percent of Israelis are Arab, and among other jobs- they are doctors, lawyers, members of the Knesset, and Supreme Court justices. That is not apartheid.

Nor is the defensive war initiated by Hamas a “genocide.” Despite the media’s abject failure to report the actual war news, the IDF’s conduct of the war ranks among the most successful military operations in the history of urban warfare with the lowest ratio of civilian deaths to armed combatant deaths in history. That’s not propaganda. That’s the finding of experts at West Point.

The cornerstone of AFOSE’s purpose is to renew our Commitment to Community and Commitment to Engagement. We are reminded by our tradition that- Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh l’zeh– we are all responsible for each other. And we are reminded by our tradition that we should not separate ourselves from the community.

By supporting AFOSE’s educational and cultural programs through volunteerism opportunities with Sar El, we will help create a vast network of alumni that will serve as effective advocates for Israel and that will combat the anti Jewish and anti Israel hate that pervade our media and social discourse. After working shoulder to shoulder with Israelis, AFOSE alumni will be armed with experience and life Lessons that will serve us all well.

We need you. Am Yisrael Chai

Deepening The Connection

AFOSE will work to broaden and deepen the connection between Americans — of all faiths — and Israel through the funding of cultural and educational programs associated with the logistical, emergency medical, and agricultural needs of Israel.

Working With SAR-EL To Generate An Alumni Group

By developing substantive volunteer opportunities  and project content in close coordination with Sar El — the National volunteer project of Israel — we will help generate a large and diverse volunteer alumni group that has spent time on the ground in Israel, and has shared the experience of providing much needed support to Israel at a time when it is most needed..

Combating Anti-Jewish and Anti-Israel Hate

Having worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis, and armed with experience, knowledge and facts,  those alumni will become Ambassadors that  can serve as the tip of the spear to combat  the anti- Jewish and anti-Israel narrative that pervades the media and the academy in the areas of the United States in which they live.

We Are All Responsible For Each Other

Volunteerism through Sar El is truly  “as real as it gets.”  The experience is not only rewarding, it is life changing- both for the volunteer and for the Israelis with whom they interact. It strengthens the  bonds of brother and sisterhood,  and brings to life the wisdom  of our teaching that “Kol yisroel areivim zeh l’zeh” -we are all responsible for each other.

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