Thank you, America. As an Israeli, I want you to know that I appreciate it.
I don’t mean for foreign aid packages or joint projects. I don’t mean for military supplies. I don’t mean for timely vetoes in the United Nations Security Council. I don’t mean for walking out of the Durban Conference on Racism, when it ceased to be “on Racism” and became “for Racism against the Jews.” I don’t even mean for taking an Israeli astronaut into outer space on a NASA flight. In fact, I don’t mean anything that involves U.S. government institutions.
I don’t mean for private American ventures, either, like McDonald’s or Microsoft. I don’t mean for exporting, slowly, your fantastic customer service-oriented business culture. I don’t mean for the many private investments in Israeli firms and technologies. I don’t mean for the idea of do-it-yourself stores or shopping malls. I don’t even mean for exporting some of the world’s best classic rock ‘n’ roll music. I certainly don’t mean for outdated reruns of “18 Wheels of Justice” or “All My Children.”
I don’t mean for hundreds of Jewish and Christian pilgrims willing to visit Israel at the best of times and the worst of times. I don’t mean for the many cultural events with the ubiquitous participation of American entertainers. I don’t mean for the American basketball players on our National League teams. I don’t even mean for the famous Israelis who were born or bred in America, like former Prime Minister Golda Meir, former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, basketball star Tal Brody, singer Achinoam Nini (Noa) or Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.
I don’t even mean for the huge pro-Israel rallies in cities across America, most notably in Washington, D.C. Nor do I mean the overall support for Israel among Americans and their Congressional representatives.
I am thankful to America for its patriotism.
Every Israeli reporter stationed in America since that terrible September 11th has commented on Israeli television or radio about the incredible patriotism of the American people. American flags everywhere. Flag pins on every lapel. Patriotic themes appeared in every media outlet. Every store, every religious institution, every school had patriotic signs up. Every caller and every host on radio talk shows felt the need to verbally wave the flag, too. Ceremonies, ecumenical and otherwise, were created out of whole cloth, just to express patriotism and unity of purpose. It was awesome to behold. Domestic anti-American sentiment was given its fair hearing relative to its size — i.e., virtually none.
This made a deep impression here, you should know. We have the distinction of being one of the world’s most self-critical nations, more so even than Americans, but seeing the outpouring of American patriotism did something to us, I think. At first, it was just a vague sense of change. Average Israelis commented to one another wistfully, “If only we had the patriotism of Americans.” And then, we had it. Sure, the soldiers refusing to serve in the IDF initially got the inordinate amount of press that might be expected from the Leftist media, but, when push came to shove, the story of the more than 100% response to army reserve duty call-ups (meaning that Israelis who were not called for duty went to volunteer anyway) captured the domestic media’s attention. Today’s Israeli media talking heads are more likely to ask challenging questions of foreign reporters and politicians who come here with prejudices against the IDF or against the unity government’s policies.
This year, starting after Passover through Independence Day and until today, it seems to me that there are a lot more Israeli flags out there. Seven out of ten cars sport at least one Israeli flag. Most houses, also, are flying the Jewish Star and Stripes. And have you noticed the little Israeli flag lapel pin worn by our Prime Minister nowadays? I am convinced that it is due to the inspiration of American politicians in the wake of September 11th.
So, in short, thank you America for being yourselves: patriotic, confident, proud and determined. We needed that.
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