My friend and I got to the room where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be speaking really early so we were in the fourth row, or, according to my friend, "FOURTH ROW!"
We had the opportunity to chat with Hillel President Wayne Firestone about what, as Hillel students, is our duty to Israel. His answer? "To love it because it is part of your family." He also emphasized the need for people to "spread the love" to other people who may only know Israel from the media by encouraging them to do things like study in Israel (where I will hopefully be next fall!) "I don't take for granted that Israel is kind of a miracle," said Wayne.
Netanyahu was so inspiring. Also seeing Oscar the Grouch and Moishe Oofnik speak about Israel first was a cute and comforting surprise.
Netanyahu began by saying that "the greatest danger facing Israel and the world is that of a nuclear Iran" and that we should all stay loyal to Israel. At this point, a young woman in the audience jumped up and began shouting, "The loyalty oath delegitimizes Israel." She was immediately tackled by Netanyahu's security and forcefully escorted out of the auditorium, still shouting her message.
Netanyahu's response to this was, "I'm going to talk about delegitimizing Israel but she really has the wrong address." To this there was a large amount of applause. Three or four more times after that would someone jump up and begin shouting about their message, all of whom were then taken out of the auditorium, one of whom decided to emphasize that was a "young Jewish woman."
Netanyahu, when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said, "We don't want to see [peace] on a piece of paper, we want to see it on the ground," to which there was applause. He said that there is "only one path toward peace, and that is through negotiated settlements." He asserted that it this were achieved, there would be economic prosperity for both states.
He also wanted to instill a sense in us young, impressionable students, that we should continue to visit Israel and at some point to bring our friends. He pointed out that 1.4 million Jews have been on Birthright. Netanyahu pledged to continue working so that every young Jew who wants to come to Israel, can. And I leave you with this Netanyahu quote: "the Jewish people are not strangers in the land of Israel Israel is our home; it always was our home; it always will be our home The more we speak with one voice, the more that voice will be heard." Time for applause.
Samantha Tropper is a student at Duke University.