Several hundred Jewish leaders from across the U.S. offered their gratitude to members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives for their staunch support of the U.S.-Israel relationship, on on Wednesday.
Seventeen members of congress and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren were among those who gathered in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building for the Iron Dome Tribute Luncheon. The event also honored the memory of the late Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye, who was instrumental in securing funding for the Iron Dome and was known as a staunch ally of the State of Israel throughout his political career.
The Iron Dome Congressional Tribute, which was coordinated by Ezra Friedlander and The Friedlander Group, was chaired by Robert Rechnitz, a prominent Los Angeles based Jewish philanthropist and businessman who is the Principal of Bomel Companies.
In his introductory remarks, Robert Rechnitz noted that everyone in the room was there to give thanks to the United States. "We have no political agenda," said Mr. Rechnitz. "We are here to simply offer our gratitude to the United States for its unwavering support of Israel."
Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California, who is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke about the 90 percent success rate of the Iron Dome in November and how important it was that Americans got the opportunity to see the defense system work effectively. He also recounted how his father was one of the people who liberated Dachau as a member of the American military during World War II. His father took pictures of what he witnessed in the death camp and embarked on a tour of college campuses in order to tell young adults about the horrors of the Holocaust.
"My overriding goal as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee is to strengthen American allies like Israel and weaken our enemies like Iran and Hezbollah," said Congressman Royce.
Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi talked about the great relationship between Israel and the United States over the past 65 years. "Israel lives in a very unwelcoming and hostile neighborhood," said Senator Wicker. "That is why we need to support the Iron Dome."
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, spoke about his trip to Israel and how much he enjoyed being there. He told the crowd how he sang Hebrew songs together with a group of rabbis at the Western Wall, even though he had no idea what the words meant.
"It is not our job to dictate to Israel every bit of policy minutia," Senator Paul said. "It is not our job to tell Israelis where they can or cannot build."
After giving a "shout out" to "the best ambassador in town - Michael Oren," Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, a vocal supporter of Israel, noted that she is introducing the Iron Dome Support Act, which is a testament to how much the U.S. values its relationship with Israel. "The Iron Dome saved thousands of lives and it must continue to do so," said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen.
Referring to the United States and Israel, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is a Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, said that "our interests are the same and I am going to make sure that it stays that way."
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California got the crowd laughing while discussing his recent trip to Israel. "When your name is Adam and you're married to a woman named Eve, going to Israel is like coming home. What can I say? It's bashert."
When he addressed the crowd, Ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Oren noted that the Iron Dome is the first anti-ballistic system to prove successful in combat. "It is literally rocket science," he said.
"The Iron Dome doesn't only save lives, it prevents wars. It's a game changer," said Ambassador Oren. "Behind the Iron Dome stands a marble dome - the Capitol of the United States of America."
Ambassador Oren also discussed President Obama's upcoming trip to Israel and remarked that his visit "will demonstrate an unbreakable alliance and an iron clad commitment between the United States and Israel."
In addition, the Ambassador paid tribute to the late Senator Daniel Inouye and introduced his wife, Irene Inouye.
Mrs. Inouye talked about how much her husband had valued the strong bond between the U.S. and Israel. "Dan wanted peace," she said. "I hope that it will be achieved in our lifetime."
Bill Thompson, Jr., the former Comptroller of the City of New York, commented that, "the celebration of the Iron Dome is a shared victory." Referring to the U.S.-Israel relationship, he said that "our futures will be forever linked."
R. James Woolsey, the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and currently the Chairman of Woolsey Partners, LLC, discussed the remarkable nature of the Iron Dome System. "The Iron Dome is inventive and successful," he said. "It avoids wasting defense on incoming rockets that won't hit anywhere sensitive."
Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona said that, "the Iron Dome has become the face of missile defense for the world." He also discussed the perseverance of the Jewish people. "After the Holocaust, the Jews wiped away their tears and they built a nation. The Nazis are gone, but Israel remains."
Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy, III of Massachusetts spoke about his visit to Sderot and the impact that seeing the reinforced bus shelters that doubled as bomb shelters had on him. "The only thing Israel asks for is the right to exist," he said. "That's not too much to ask."
Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the Iron Dome "allowed the United States to put its money where its mouth is."
"Support for Israel is strong and it's bipartisan and that's the way it should be," Congressman Engel said. "The bond between the United States and Israel is strong and it is unbreakable."
Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, said that, "Israel has a right to exist and we have to defend that right at every opportunity."
Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group which coordinated the event, called the luncheon a resounding success.
“The importance of gathering in the Senate to express a sense of gratitude goes a very long way in communicating with members of Congress how much the American Jewish community and the entire pro-Israel community values their ongoing support and how critical it is for the US-Israel relationship,” Friedlander told VIN News. “Although we live in the age of Twitter, the importance of face to face communication and interaction cannot be overemphasized and that was accomplished this week at the Iron Dome tribute.”