Jewish-Americans and Israel
Readers of this blog are aware that I am a Jewish-American with an intense interest in Israel. I do not harbor any dual loyalities and divided allegiances. I am a first-generation American who served in the military during wartime, and my concern about Israel does not impinge on my standing as a proud American patriot.
I often wonder whether non-Jews recognize how deeply Israel is rooted in the psyche of Jewish-Americans like me.I lived during a period in which one-third of the world's Jews--6 million--were methodically slaughtered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators in virtually every European country. Their psychotic goal was to exterminate the world's Jewish population. If my grandparents had not been fortunate enough to have fled Poland and Russia more than a century ago to settle in America, I could have been one of the victims..
This was underscored when I recently checked the web site of Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, which contains the names of 3 million of those killed. I was stunned to find 139 persons bearing what I had always considered my uncommon surname. All had been inhabitants of the Polish region in which my father was born.
If there had been an independent Jewish state in which the Jews could have defended themselves during the 1930s and early 1940s, there would not have been a Holocaust. I may be presumptious, but I have long believed that both the Christian and Muslim worlds "owed" the Jews the privilege of secure statehood to compensate for the torment experienced by Jews for at least 1,500 years in both Christian and Muslim countries.
To some extent, the establishment of Jewish statehood may have been at the expense of Palestinian Arabs. But perhaps this was payback time for the suffering of the Jews in Arab countries (there are now 22 of them) ever since the time of Mohamed. Where, however, were their Arab brethren--especially the ultra-rich oil states--to redeem them? The Arabs traditionally boast that they are a single "nation" with a distinct culture, history and language. But what happened to the much-celebrated Muslim concept of charity?
To be sure, in certain eras, the Jews were tolerated and allowed to integrate into the local Christian and Muslim societies, especially if they were willing to abandon Judaism and convert. Particularly in Muslim lands, Jewish communities occasionally flourished. But the Jews were invariably treated by Islam as "dhimmis." These were so-called "protected peoples," but still second-class citizens often required to wear certain clothing, barred from land-owning, and subject to special taxes and other restrictions.
Only in the U.S. and other Western democracies during the last two centuries have the Jews been welcomed and allowed to assimilate or to freely retain their religious culture.
Despite their good fortune in living in the U.S., however, most Jewish-Americans regard Israel as a refuge for foreign Jews who do not share our good fortune, are still unwelcome in other lands, and need a homeland of their own.