Editor's note: An earlier version of this column inaccurately stated the name of a committee. The correct name is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
As many students at UT can attest, coming here from another state (in my case, California) can be terrifying. Knowing next to nobody on campus, I was nervous and overwhelmed. I was consistently advised to connect with an organization or activity to make UT’s 50,000 person undergraduate population more manageable. Texans for Israel has been that haven.
It is an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so many students who share my passion for democracy. This pro-Israel student organization compels me to join them and put my commitment and determination into action. I was invited along with 20 other UT students to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) National Summit, which was held Nov. 1 through 3. At the summit, I learned so many incredible things about Israel, like how Israel has more venture capital investments per person than any other nation and is ranked fourth in scientific activity. More importantly, among all Middle Eastern countries, Israel ranks number one in women’s rights. Israel’s commitment to empowering women is particularly important to me as I embark on my college journey, because most women my age in other parts of the Middle East have limited or no access to education.
Israeli innovations were also a huge area of excitement at the summit. There have been vast amounts of technology coming from Israel, such as OrCam, which helps the blind and visually impaired see. Even with the constant threat of war surrounding its border, Israel is still one of the greatest economic success stories ever told.
On Nov. 16 through 18, I was again invited to join AIPAC, only this time in Washington, D.C. As a college-level Peer Facilitator at the Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit, I worked with 400 high school students from places across the nation, educating them on the many ways they can promote the U.S.-Israel relationship. The weekend ended in admiration as I watched these remarkably motivated students lobby their members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
While in D.C., we were met with the horrific news of two Palestinian terrorists entering a synagogue in Jerusalem and brutally murdering four Israeli rabbis. This event stirred emotions all around the world, and served the students at the summit a grotesque reminder that their work toward strengthening Israel is both critical and just.
The opportunities I have been given since arriving at UT have been formative and life changing. I am excited for the rest of my four years here on the Forty Acres, especially giving voice to my commitment of highlighting the shared values of the U.S. and Israel. Standing with Israel is standing with democracy.
Conwisar is a history freshman from Los Angeles.