Thursday, July 05, 2007

Jews Love: Independence Day

Not too long ago I was visiting a Jewish camp, and I heard the following anecdote:

"I couldn't remember where in England one of the counselors was from, so I asked her, 'where are you from?' and she responded 'England, temporarily.' Why temporarily? 'Because my homeland is in Israel."

This type of statement makes me very uncomfortable unless you have immediate plans to make aliyah*. Now, I love Israel, but I'm also a pretty patriotic American. I recognize that this country has given me, and my ancestors (and hopefully my children) amazing opportunities that just weren't available anywhere else. It has allowed us religious and intellectual freedoms, and given us full citizenship and equal rights under the law. None of these are small things. I am by no means saying that America or its government are perfect, but that if you live here, you should recognize that it has probably been good to you.

My friend, another counselor, and I discussed how we hate that many young Jews are more than willing to run and serve in the IDF, but would NEVER consider serving in the American army. This wasn't always the case, in World War I Jews volunteered to serve in a much higher percentage than the rest of the population, in part because they wanted to prove their loyalty to America, but in part because the immigrant generation felt strongly that they were Americans and owed a debt of gratitude to the country that took them in. On that topic, Jameel posts some musings about July 4th, saying that he "didn't leave America and make aliya to Israel because of negative issues in the USA; it was the lure of the positive aspects of Israel that brought [him] here." And that is a position which I can respect, and get behind.

Snake Oil Sam of Snake Oil Sam's Radio Review just found out that " a Jew played a critical role in the early days of this nation in its fight for independence." Now I'm not sure who he is talking about, but I do know that almost every group currently in America has their "pet revolutionary" whose participation in the Revolutionary War establishes that group's authenticity as Americans. Dennis Prager of The Outraged Spleen of Zion also talks about the Revolutionary War, but he speaks in terms of remembrance. His suggestion is that we create a 'Fourth of July Seder' because ritual is one of the only ways to preserve a meaningful memory. However, the memories stirred by Jack's photo from September 11th are still fresh, as he suggests (I think) that we remember on July 4th that "Freedom isn't free."

On a "light"-er note, themiddle and Jacob DaJew both posted about fireworks displays. I'm actually not such a fan of fireworks on the 4th, mostly because I grew up with really impressive displays, after which the ones in New York seem pretty lame. Themiddle posted a photo of some fireworks, while Jacob talked about his experience with illegal fireworks and the local police. Some idiots on my block set off amateur fireworks in the middle of the street, which was sort of beautiful (also loud and dangerous) until the fire department came to put a stop to it. It seems like people forget that fireworks are actually airborne explosives, just because they produce a pretty show when they explode. While the fireworks were going off on my street last night it felt a little like being in a war zone between the bright flashes of light and loud explosion noises. I actually have a few friends who, after having been near rocket attacks, can no longer enjoy fireworks, and I can't say that I blame them. Similarly, Muse of Me-ander has a friend who can't enjoy them because they sound like "tanks exploding."

Jacob also posted about putting out his flag on Independence Day. Since I live in an apartment building, that isn't really an option for me, but I'm sure that my parents had theirs out. I'm sure of this mostly because our flag is out almost every day (barring rain). In my neighborhood flags are more common than not, in part because so many people are active duty, retired, or the parents of military service members.

Also, did anyone in the J-blogosphere go to a BBQ? Sadly, I didn't get a chance to, and from my first scan it doesn't seem like anyone else did either, but that's hard for me to believe.

*Aliyah means to go up, and to make aliyah means to emigrate immigrate to Israel.


sarah said...

I went to a barbeque! Sadly, no veggies being grilled.

The Pedant said...

Wasn't it a fast day yesterday? Would make barbecuing sort of inconvenient before 9PM.

Annie said...

The day before was a fast day. Which sucked royally.

Liberal Jew said...

I barbecued on my patio! It was awesome! I even had Hebrew National Hot Dogs and kabobs of veggies. (they were yummy.)

I also had lots of Sousa playing loudly and a flag draped over my railings. I love this country. Now we just have to fix it.

Anonymous said...

Aliyah means to go up, and to make aliyah means to emmigrate to Israel

Immigrate not emigrate. You immigrate to a country and emigrate from a country.

Annie said...

LJ- and you didn't invite me? Sad.

Anon- thanks, I wasn't sure, and was too lazy to Google.

Liberal Jew said...

Annie with due apologies, it was less than Kosher. But next time for sure...and I will bust out the foil and paper plates just for you (and anyone you would like to bring)

muse said...

thanks for including me

the fast was on the 3rd and then there's another in 3 weeks

Michael said...

I organized a BBQ. Here in Karmiel.

I'm not sure if it was an Israeli BBQ, American style, or an American BBQ, Israeli style, or just an American BBQ with Israeli ingredients, but it sure was fun.

Great post; you've really caught on to some of the ambivilance of being oleh and American...

montana urban legend said...

Regarding your first paragraph(s) - the cool historical similarity between the U.S. and Israel is that, not only did the first generations of Americans see themselves as reminiscent of and inspired in part by the Jews of antiquity, but in so doing, they were also emphasizing the building of a nation on a creedal basis moreso than on a nationalistic basis. Tidbits like these are not readily apparent to most Americans, but when you get a feel for the culture of other countries (especially in Europe) and the historical roots of their own statehood, the similarities between the founding of both the U.S. and Israel seem to feel much more prominent.

Anonymous said...

This is a guess but I think part of the reason that young Jews go to Israel to serve instead of the US may be the importance attached to each mission. I think most people consider the IDF an army fighting an existential war while the US army may be perceived as an army that fights wars that over the past few decades have not been of an existential nature. If the US was in a life and death struggle such as WWII, I'm pretty sure the number of Jewish conscripts would increase dramatically.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me, TM from Jewlicious.

Annie said...

TM- actually (having written my senior thesis on this) Jews in America participate more when they are trying to prove their loyalty, citizenship, masculinity, it is less about what we are fighting for, and more about how we will be seen at home.

This can be shown by the research and reports put out by the American Jewish Committee, and Jewish Welfare Board after World Wars I and II.

Although I do agree that American Jews see the IDF as more heroic, and certainly have less of the ambivalence that many feel towards the US military.

Jacob Da Jew said...

Thanks for the double link~

I live in a four family house, and actually plan on leaving the flag up.

Also, I only lit Roman candles which don't make a huge noise, just kinda pretty.

For safety reasons, I planted them in a big flower pot by a fire hydrant so it wouldn't hit anyone.