We get excited over our sports teams, don’t we? We go to games and scalp tickets to get great seats. We buy hot dogs, peanuts and beer, and spend ridiculous amounts at the stadiums. We wear the jerseys; hang the pennants on our walls, and get custom license plates on to demonstrate our pride. We call in to radio shows or write in blogs opining over a player’s action or a referee’s call. We are loud, boisterous and passionate.
There is little we won’t do, and few expenses we won’t incur. Yet, that is all we do, because we have no real say in how a team is managed, or which players are traded.
For many Jews and Christian Zionists in America, Israel is the team we love. We rush to visit, bring planeloads of people, like a busload of children arriving at Yankee Stadium; if they’re from an influential school, they may even step onto the field to shake Derek Jeter’s hand. Zion-seekers with the right organization might get to the Knesset floor or be welcomed at the home of Israel’s president.
We buy Israeli products, hang flags on our homes, and get passionate about her politics. Some write about it; others hold dinners to declare their solidarity and profess their beliefs — whether it is Peace Now or the One Israel Fund.
Yet, unlike sports, where the outcome does not truly change lives, we are in a position to effect policies that impact the lives of the people who live in Israel. Whether AIPAC lobbys the Hill for money or support, or the former American Jewish Congress helps draft a proposed constitution for Israel, Americans are more than committed fans. They are pseudo-citizens, influencing events inside the country itself.
In almost every case, for practically every western nation, their expats, or American-born kin feel some attachment to their native lands, but they do not get actively involved in the internal politics of those countries. Israel, however, carries a different set of rules; but is it right?
I wrote a piece questioning whether Israel was worth our blood, sweat and tears, and one comment it engendered hit me hard. It wasn’t about the article’s overall point, it questioned my use of the term, “our.” An Israeli pointed out that it was indeed, neither my blood, nor my sweat, but allowed me the tears of empathy.