Last week, The Jewish Press ran an article, “Reform and Orthodox Kids to Celebrate Fourth of July Together.” The stated goal of the celebration is “to strengthen the Jewish identity of the young people.”
Give me a break! Does anyone genuinely believe that celebrating the Fourth of July will strengthen Jewish identity? Yom HaAtzmaut is Independence Day for the Jews, not the 4th of July. Boker tov, my friends, but Israel is our nation, not America. How can you expect to strengthen Jewish identity by having Jewish kids celebrate a gentile country’s Independence Day? Even if you play “Hava Negilla” to remind the kids that they’re Jewish and have them dance a Hora, you are leading them astray, and in many cases, leading them into the arms of a shicksa or shagetz. After all, if they are Americans like everyone else, why not marry an America like everyone else? In America, everyone is equal, Jew and gentile alike. So why not marry a gentile? Why not get married to Sally Jane or Wendy Sue and watch the 4th of July fireworks together?
All I can say is, “Thank you, God, for having taken me out of America. Thank you for letting me realize that George Washington isn’t my nations’ founding father, that the Pilgrims aren’t my ancestors, that Plymouth Rock isn’t the Foundation Stone, and that the Boston Tea Party has nothing to do with my past. Thank you, God, for bringing me to the Land of the Jews, where we sing “HaTikva” in Hebrew at national gatherings and not the “Star Spangled Banner.” Thank you for making me realize that the Star of David is my nation’s flag and not the Stars and Stripes. Thank you for giving me wonderful children who are all growing up as Jews from the tip of their kippot down to their sandals and Crocs, without dual loyalties and schizophrenic identities, who celebrate Israel’s Memorial Day over fallen Jewish soldiers, and Israel’s Independence Day over having our own Jewish State, and not the Independence Day of some foreign country that is always pressuring Israel to surrender half of Jerusalem and the heart of our Biblical homeland to enemies bent on our destruction, may Hashem oust them from our midst.
Only an oleh from America who now lives in Israel can appreciate the incredible difference between religious kids who grow up in Israel and their Diaspora counterparts. My children are a different species of child, a totally different breed. Sure they like candy and Coke and playing basketball like Jewish children all over the world, but their heads and hearts are in completely different places. In school, they learn about Jewish history, not the history of some gentile country. They learn that Avraham Avinu is their founding father and not George Washington. They grow up speaking Hebrew and not some foreign language. Their allegiance is to the flag of Israel and not some gentile flag. The songs they sing are about their own Jewish homeland and not “America the beautiful, God shed His grace on thee.” The wars they learn about are Jewish wars. Their war heroes are Israeli, Yehoshua ben Nun, David HaMelach, Yehuda HaMaccabee, Bar Kochva and Rabbi Akiva, not Patrick Henry, Davy Crocket, or Wyatt Earp. Instead of growing up being American kids who are also Jewish, they are Children of Israel, just as we are called in the Bible. Judaism for them is not just a religion, but their national identity as well. Thank God that they have never heard of Betsy Ross, Thomas Jefferson, the crossing of the Delaware, or Francis Scott Key. If you ask them where the Declaration of Independence was signed, they will answer, Tel Aviv. And when they are eighteen years old, they go into the Israel Defense Forces willing to fight and sacrifice themselves if need be for their Jewish brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, instead of going off to party in college with blond and blue eyed co-eds.
Here in Israel, I meet a lot of wonderful, young Jewish Americans who come for a year of study, or for a short Birthright visit. Often, they are guests at our home for a meal on Shabbat. No matter whether they are Orthodox, reform, or nothing at all, their heads are Made in America. Yes, even the Orthodox – the blood which flows in their veins is red, white, and blue. Say something against the President of the United States and they get offended. Suggest that they visit Hevron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs and they become afraid. They are all good, well-meaning Jews, but their minds have been brainwashed with all of the history, culture, folklore, and trash of America. They themselves will tell you proudly, first and foremost, they are Americans. That’s their main identity. Their Jewishness is clearly in second place. Baseball is far more important to them than the latest headlines in Israel. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true.
Yes, indeed, thank God my kids are growing up in Israel. And thank You, my God, the God of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, and not George Washinton, the tzaddik who didn’t chop down the cherry tree, thank You for opening my eyes to understand that being Jewish means being absorbed in Jewish history, and celebrating Jewish independence, and living in the Jewish Land, and performing the mitzvot in the place they were meant to be performed, and not being duped into identifying with the history and culture of some foreign, gentile land, where we do the mitzvot so we won’t forget how to do them, so they won’t seem new to us when we return to the special Holy Land where God wants us to live.
Therefore, to all of my beloved Jewish brothers and sisters in America, if you want to drink beer and eat kosher hot dogs on the Fourth of July because America has been good to the Jews, then drink your Budweisers and eat your hot dogs. But after you finish your meal and thank God for the food and the land, don’t confuse matters and think that the land in the Birkat HaMazon is referring to America. Even when a Jew eats a hot dog in America, or a baguette in gay Paree, the Torah wants him to thank God for having given him the LAND OF ISRAEL, not for the old US of A, or France. The Torah wants us to remember that we belong in Eretz Yisrael, the Land that God gave us, and not the land that He gave to the Indians before the Americans wiped them out in a good old fashion wholesale American slaughter. God wants us to remember Jerusalem, not Washington D.C. or New York.
So go ahead and eat your hot dogs. Drink your beer. But don’t think that the Fourth of July is really Independence Day for you. Remember that your nation is Israel, not America. Your hearts should beat proudly when you see the Star of David blowing in the wind, not the Stars and Stripes. And always remember that you are only in America, temporarily, because of the curse of galut. Perhaps you were born there, but it isn’t your home. Enjoy eating your hot dog and drinking your beer, but don’t pretend it is Independence Day for you. If you are a Jew, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” is Israel.
We hope to see you here soon.Tzvi Fishman
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" will be available soon as a DVD.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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