Patriotism: America Vs. Israel
This morning, I got two AP updates. One was the United States Supreme Court saying that companies had the right to tell me whether or not I could obtain birth control. I shrugged my shoulders and got on. Then was the discovery of the bodies of three missing teenagers from Israel who were kidnapped in the West Bank. And my body began to shake.
Today, while the Supreme Court was telling me that the companies I work for have every right to tell me how to deal with my healthcare, I saw three mothers who will never see their boys come home again, who will now have their garments torn in mourning as a country around them cries out in anguish. It is something I have seen before in my lifetime and I hate to see happen again. But Israel will share their anguish together, because Israel is that type of place. The pain of one becomes the pain of all.
And now I am scared, because I don’t really care about the United States anymore. I expect this country to screw over everyone again and again, so I’m dull to the pain. I see people striving and trying to make change, but they seem to get road blocked or only able to take the smallest of steps. In a country of 300 million people, I’m reduced to a whisper, and any change that happens in my favor is kind of an accident. Since I have no money I’m powerless, and I’m used to it. This is no way to live.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic is a country that is messed up and has its difficulties, but yet I feel more invested in than here. Israel is a place where people are loud, boisterous and difficult, but open their hearts to you when you need it. When three boys don’t come home, they rally in prayer and efforts to find them. And when they find them dead, they embrace the mothers first and then figure out what they’re going to do.
My parents even felt this way back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They saw a country at war in Vietnam and didn’t believe in it, yet they believed in Israel and its right to exist. They were even going through the paperwork to move, although a family crisis changed their minds at the last minute.
Now I’m in a country that is at war with its very people, who want more out of life yet have to get the crumbs while the richer keep taking more to the bank. Voices from each side of the political spectrum seems to be shouting at you trying to get your attention, and the noise is so high it becomes no wonder why so many Americans tune out, myself included. We just want to go about our lives when in truth we are so tied to the world that the haves created that the have-nots can’t seem to find a way out unless we land in a pile of money.
I would not espouse that Israel is perfect; I would be the first to tell you that it’s not. Seeing it firsthand three months ago, the problems were evident: The cost of living is high, the civil arena is controlled by the rabbinate, racism is a huge problem and there are cultural differences that are hard to overcome for new immigrants. (Note how I didn’t mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in there.)
And yet there is more to life there than computer screens. There is conversation and kindness, dedication and passion. There’s hard work but also rest. There is brashness in business but also the clerk who will wave you away with your goods when you don’t have enough to pay. And they are the country that will mourn Eyal, Naftali and Gilad tonight, even though most of them probably never knew them.
The fact that I recognize the problems of a country, yet still want to solve them, is the true patriotism, not the blindly following. America has a lot of questions but no solutions. There’s a lot of talk and funny videos, but not a lot of doing. It has politicians throwing names at each other and their blinded followers doing the same. It has petty disagreements, squabbles and squawking that seems to distract from the real problems and how we can solve them. And in the Jewish state I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we have a chance.
I came back from Israel three months ago with a lot of questions about my life there versus here, and how I was going to live it. Now three boys added another line to the question of my patriotism. And as a nation mourns, I will lie in bed at night with my eyes open, trying to figure out the answer.