Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why I Love Israel and Am Proud to Be Judged by Her Standards

Because I am Jewish, of course, I love Israel. It is my cultural patrimony, even as America, the land of my birth and that of my parents, is the country I love and to which I owe my allegiance. In fact, after I lived in Israel for two years during my 30s, I came back to America more appreciative than ever for the unique things and values that America has given me. The English language and the puns within it. The kinds of opportunities that are unique to this great land. Broad-based free enterprise.

The Yankees. The Mets. The Giants. The Jets.

The Lakers.

But, as a Jew, I am inevitably bound culturally with Israel. And – like it or not – I am judged by my fellow Americans, to one degree or another, by what Israel does. And that, too, is why I am so proud of Israel. I am so proud that people judge me – an American – by what Israel does. By what she is. And by what she does not do. And by what she is not.

In the middle of the Middle East – where modern-day terror has its birthplace and its breadbasket – Israel is an island of freedom, free speech, democracy. Anyone can say whatever he or she wants. The one country in the entire Middle East where there is freedom -- and safety in freedom.

The Jewish religion is protected there, and so are all other religions. Can you imagine a Jew being free and safe in Saudi Arabia? Heck, Jews and Christians are not even allowed to set foot in Mecca. No Mecca for us there.

In all of world history, which has seen so many countries pull free people out of Africa to enslave them, only one country ever risked its citizens’ lives in covert operations aimed at extricating African slaves from Africa to set them free as full citizens in their land: Israel. When Vietnamese “boat people” risked their very lives in rickety crafts on the high seas in a desperate effort to escape Communism and totalitarianism, Israel opened its doors and rescued survivors, who today are third generation Vietnamese Israelis.

In Israel there is hope, even though all the surrounding populations aim their weapons at her. Her northern border is not Canada but the terrorist Hezbollah who rain rockets on her. Her southern border is not Mexico but the terrorist Hamas who swear to destroy Israel. And yet, somehow, Israelis keep believing in peace. No one in her region is willing to negotiate a sincere peace with her, yet she remains a nation ever-optimistic that the terrorists someday will change course. From the Palestine Authority to Hamas to Hezbollah, the leaders of those polities manipulate their children, through corrupted kids’ television shows and summer camps and hateful school texts, to hate the Jews next door. And yet Israel teaches peace and mutual acceptance, preparing its children for the day when the others stop hating.

I am so proud to be judged by the standards that Israel has set.

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