One of the great things about Israel is that when Christmas time comes around you don’t notice it at all. Sure, if you go to Bethlehem, you’ll see Christmas decorations and maybe a manger, but what Jew goes to Bethlehem anymore? The same is true with the Fourth of July.
True, I saw somebody driving around today with American flags waving from his car windows, but I didn’t think of the Fourth of the July. My wife, who is Israeli, asked, “Why would anyone want to drive with American flags flying out of his car?” Only when I noticed a post on the Internet did I realize that the Fourth of July was on its way. In Israel, we have more important things to deal with. Who cares about the Fourth of July?
The truth is that not many Americans really care about it either. It’s a day off from work, maybe a barbecue, a chance to do some discount shopping, and see some fireworks on TV. I am sure there are still a few patriotic Americans who get misty when they hear the Star Spangled Banner and see Old Betsy wave in the wind. But for a Jew to celebrate the Fourth of July? It is as absurd as an American Indian going to a baseball game to honor the day.
Therefore, to all you Jews in America, if you want to drink beer and eat hot dogs on the Fourth of July because America has been good to the Jews, then drink your Buds and eat your mustard buns. But after you finish your meal and thank G-d for the food and the land, don’t confuse matters and think that the land in the Birchat HaMazone blessing is referring to America. The Torah wants a Jew to praise G-d for having given him the Land of Israel, not for the old US of A. In formulating the blessing, our Sages wanted a Jew to remember Jerusalem, not Washington D.C. or New York. Go ahead and eat your hot dogs, if they are kosher. Drink your beer. But don’t think that the Fourth of July is your Independence Day. If you are a You’re your Independence Days are Pesach and Yom Haatzmaut. If you are a Jew, your nation is Israel, not America. You should be saluting the Star of David, not the Stars and Stripes. Remember that you are only there temporarily because of the curse of galut. Perhaps you were born there, but it isn’t your home. When a baseball sails into the bleachers for a game-winning grand slam, the American cheering next to you may give you a brotherly smile, but he really hates your guts.
So have a happy Fourth of July if you wish. But don’t pretend it is Independence Day for you. If you still identify with your Jewishness, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” is in Israel. Hope to see you here soon!