This post about how Americans are fixing the flag flown over Ground Zero brought tears to my eyes, and it prompted me to write about something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. That is my love for America and Americans, and my mixed feelings about Israel’s non-Jewish American supporters.
I was born in America and spent 30 out of my (almost) 50 years living there. My parents were secular Jews and proud Americans, who flew the American flag on July 4th and also took pride in Israel’s accomplishments. I became an Orthodox Jew at the age of 17, and when studying Jewish law and history and deepening my observance, I thought for the first time about the Jewish people’s “twin loyalties”. This strengthened after spending time in Israel and falling in love with it, culminating in our decision to make aliyah (move to Israel).
I would not be the person I am today without the freedom and the security to explore my roots that I had in America. I experienced some anti-Semitism (which ironically started me on my way to exploring those roots – see here), but in general I felt accepted by most of the non-Jews in which I came into contact. I feel love and affection for the country that I lived in for most of my life, while knowing that the one place to be a Jew in the fullest sense of the term is Israel. Israel is the only place that I think of as “home”.
I have very mixed feelings about the non-Jews in America who are Israel’s most vocal supporters. I am grateful for their support, and I admire their actions for Israel. At the same time, the wary cynicism that has awakened after living as an Orthodox Jew and an Israeli for the past twenty years tells me to step back and act with caution. After all, we Jews have been persecuted and kicked out of practically every country on earth. Will America follow suit one day (G-d forbid) or prove the exception to the rule?
When I first heard about Glenn Beck’s upcoming events in Jerusalem in August, these feelings intensified. On the one hand it is pretty mind blowing that this famous person is going to bring tens? hundreds? thousands? of non-Jews to Jerusalem to “stand with us”. Granted, some of the events he is planning are unapologetically Christian in nature (and why shouldn’t it be – he is a man of faith and that is what drives him and most of his followers!). The cynic in me also says that the PR he will get from these events will not hurt him in his future endeavors.
On the other hand I can’t help but feel that this kind of event could only be done by an American. I also feel that G-d has a hand in this (as he does in everything that happens in the world, whether we see it or not). When I let my imagination run a bit wild, I think that if America experiences an economic depression and times get really bad, and the forces of anti-Semitism rear their ugly heads, that these people are going to be the ones to protect the Jews.
Did I say that I have mixed feelings?