Weston resident and eighth grader Michael Sitver is a passionate Israel advocate. He was already interested and active in American politics when he first went to Israel with his family in 2007, and it was then that his interest in Israeli politics was sparked. For the then-10-year-old, the awareness he gained was just a start.
“Visiting Israel was a game-changer,” he says. “I saw firsthand what land the Jews and Muslims were fighting over. I was amazed at the separation. I never imagined before that trip, that the Israelis had to live in such fear that they must post soldiers everywhere – from hotels to restaurants – for protection. I was surprised by the fact that Jerusalem was split in half. Jews never went in the Muslim half, and Muslims never went in the Jewish half. It saddened me to see that the Israelis must live in constant fear of war from their neighbors. Parts of their already small country were Arab-controlled, and they couldn’t even enter, and other parts had land mines from past invaders. I felt a need to help.”
A year later, Sitver attended a local Anti-Defamation League (ADL) event and has remained involved in the organization ever since. Not only has he learned about ADL’s training programs for U.S. law enforcement, and helping to solve hate crimes, but he also participated in the organization’s anti-bullying program at his school, both as an audience member and as a presenter.
Around the same time, Sitver learned about AIPAC and its annual policy conference. He convinced his parents to attend the event last year.
“At the conference, I learned that AIPAC is an outreach organization to the U.S government,” he says. “They lobby the U.S. government toward pro-Israel resolutions, and take lawmakers on trips to Israel to teach them about Israel. I was amazed at all of the support for AIPAC. I think 8,000 people showed up, including half of the Senate and half of Congress – in one night. I loved hearing the amazing speakers, which included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. All of them spoke passionately about Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Sitver even got to try his hand at lobbying. He was chosen by his fellow Fairfield County delegation members to discuss with Congressman Jim Himes concerns pertaining to the Iranian nuclear program.
“I lobbied him on why we need to heavily sanction Iran,” Sitver says. “In the end I was successful as I convinced him to sign a letter to President Obama on the threat. It was a very enriching experience.”
Sitver worked on the last two campaigns of Gayle Weinstein, elected last year as first councilman of Weston. He also got his parents to drive to Scranton to canvass door-to-door for Obama and the local Democrats in the 2008 campaign.
These early experiences are already helping Sitver create an idea of his future career.
“I want to be a politician when I grow up for more reasons than this, but I would be very pro-Israel there,” he says. “I would also love to really lobby on Israel’s behalf one day, and I would love to take more trips to Israel. I will try and help in any way I can. I hope to be involved further as I grow up.”
His first order of business? Get more teens involved. “Most of the people I have seen at Israel advocacy events are adults,” he says. “That is something we need to change.”