The following Op/Ed was written by Arizona congresswoman Gabreille Giffords on Oct. 27, 2006 and was originally published in the Arizona Jewish Post.
My grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, was the son of a Lithuanian rabbi. My grandfather changed his name to Giff Giffords for reasons of anti-Semitism and moved to Southern Arizona from New York more than a half century ago. In the 1940s, he founded my family’s tire and automotive business, El Campo Tire, which grew into a successful and thriving business for 50 years, which I ran for several years before serving in the Arizona Legislature.
Growing up, my family’s Jewish roots and tradition played an important role in shaping my values. The women in my family served as strong role models for me as a girl. In my family, if you want to get something done, you take it to the women relatives! Like my grandmother, I am a lifetime member of Hadassah and now a member of Congregation Chaverim.
When I served in the State Senate in Arizona, I had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I had the opportunity to meet with the then-mayor of Jeru-salem, Ehud Olmert, and I got to see firsthand the sacrifices that Israelis make in the name of security because of the dangerous state of affairs there.
I will always be a strong supporter of Israel. As the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, Israel is a vital strategic ally of the United States. I believe the United States must do everything possible to secure Israel’s long-term security and achieve a lasting peace in the region. The failure of the current administration to continue the peace process has been a loss to America and Israel. That is why we need a new direction in Washington.
Peace between Israel and her neighbors can only be achieved by direct talks between the parties. Until the Palestinian leadership and other hostile regimes are willing to accept Israel’s right to exist, it will be impossible to achieve peace. I believe that the United States can help by providing a mediator who can be trusted by both sides, like former President Bill Clinton. It’s an approach that worked in achieving a peaceful settlement to the violence in Northern Ireland. People in the Middle East need to know that the U.S. is serious about the peace process.
We cannot forget our past. I have worked to protect the rights of Holocaust survivors in our state. In 2002, I sponsored legislation that was signed into law by Governor Jane Hull, and unanimously approved by the Senate, to allow victims of the Holocaust, or their heirs, to collect insurance claims (HB 2541). It re-opened the statute of limitations for these claims. My opponent, Randy Graf, was one of only 13 legislators to oppose this bill.
As a woman and as a Jew, I will always work to insure that the United States stands with Israel to jointly ensure our mutual safety, security, and prosperity. I invite you to visit www.giffordsforcongress.com.
Gabrielle Giffords is the Democratic candidate for Congress in District 8.