Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I was sitting on the train yesterday, feeling rather smug. And for good reason. There are few things more conducive to smugness than going from a pro-Israel rally to the Israeli consulate to submit your application for an Oleh's visa- a feeling that you alone, of all the people around you, are really supportive of Israel- you alone are really brave and idealistic and all that sort of junk. And most of all, the feeling that you alone doing something for the country- giving her the rest of your life, and so forth.

Anyway, just about the time that the wry internal editor was starting to get sardonic on the whole smugness thing, the woman behind me, who had been holding a deafening cell phone conversation behind me, shouted "It's not me that owes you! It's you that owes me!"

Thank you, Hashem. Sometimes it does not pay to be subtle, eh?

Well, but nonetheless, it's true. How dare I feel smug for moving to Israel? Do I honestly think that Israel is breathing a sigh of relief and saying, "Well, now all of our troubles are over. Tobie is on her way." Or even if we will allow that my presence may make some small positive difference to Israel, how can I imagine that this comes close to the good that Israel is doing for me?

I am not doing Israel any favors. Quite the contrary. I am giving Israel what? Some tax money, a couple of more figures for her demographics? And she is giving me...everything.

But the point of this post is not merely to act as a forum for my uninteresting personal revelations. I think that, in some sense, many of us may secretly be feeling the same smugness- attending our rallies, saying our prayers, calling our congressman. "Israel, don't worry, here we are." And our actions are, of course, commendable, and I suppose we have the right to feel good about doing them. But let's not forget for a second that Israel gives us more than we could ever give her.

As Americans, she is a friend in a truly messed-up region, one of our only real allies, and a useful canary in the mineshaft. As Jews, she is our heart, our hopes, our inspiration. She doesn't owe us anything; it's we who owe her.

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