ADVERTISEMENT

 
The Israelis I met with tried to describe what many in the free world would consider unimaginable: living in a perpetual state of instability, surrounded by forces who seek, and who will use any means necessary to ensure, your destruction.
 
When nineteen al-Qaeda jihadists in four hijacked commercial airplanes tragically took the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, our nation watched in horror and in disbelief.
 
How these terrorists could pull off such a mission -- quietly assuming lives of assimilation while plotting our annihilation; evading the watchful eye of the FBI, on whose terrorist-alert lists some of the hijackers appeared; targeting a building that had already been attacked in 1993; using a strikingly similar plot to the failed Bojinka hijacking scheme in the Philippines -- seemed implausible, if not impossible.
 
In addition to the devastating number of lives lost on 9-11, our innocence was lost as well. America has never been the same.
 
What September 11 crystallized for so many Americans, and for freedom-loving people throughout the world, was just how much al-Qaeda and their supporters despise our democratic values and personal liberties. Le Monde’s headline, “We are all Americans,” captured what the attack on 9-11 really was: an assault on humanity’s God-given right to be free.
 
Through the valiant efforts of our military, law enforcement, intelligence community, border security, and countless others, other plots have been thwarted.
 
The fear of another attack that once gripped our nation has since subsided, and our worries have turned increasingly toward the economy and our historically high rates of unemployment and debt.
 
While our economic viability is as connected to our national security as is our military readiness, we cannot take our eyes off a threat that still looms.
 
We have been safe here at home because our men and women in uniform have taken the fight to the enemy, weakening al-Qaeda, liberating Iraqis from a murderous regime, working toward peace in the Middle East alongside our Arab allies, and bringing to justice the mastermind of September 11: Osama bin Laden.

More than 6,000 men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom, and to them and their families we are eternally grateful.
 
Yet our gratitude is only as genuine as our commitment to continue their efforts to root out terrorism and prevent another 9-11. How we continue those efforts is up for debate, and rightly so. As the threats against us evolve, so too should our national security strategy.
 
What cannot change, however, is our resolve.
 
We need not look further than Israel, our friend and only democratic ally in the Middle East, to see how we can maintain our resolve against the determined and unrelenting enemy that threatens us both.
 
“We are you and you are us,” is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained the U.S.-Israel relationship to Members of Congress during our meeting last month. Each rocket fired into Israel from bordering nations is part of the radical Islamists’ global campaign against freedom. The development and proliferation of nuclear weapons and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East not only pose a threat to Israel, which its enemies have sworn to wipe off the map, but to America and the international community at large.
 
If we fail to support Israel’s ability to defend itself and defeat terrorism, then we undermine our ability to do so as well.
 
Since 1947, Israel’s right to exist has been challenged. Despite the will of its enemies, Israel has persevered, creating a government in which Arabs and Jews serve together, and an economy that has prospered despite scant natural resources, all the while carrying the torch of freedom for the rest of the world to see.
 
While we do not live under the daily duress of rockets fired into our schools and throughout our neighborhoods, what we learned on September 11 is that America will only be free inasmuch as we are willing to defend freedom, both here and abroad.
 
May we never forget the terrible tragedy that befell our nation 10 years ago, and that we are only as vulnerable as we allow ourselves to be.

Kelly serves as the Republican representative for Pennsylvania’s 3rd district.