Israel turned 63 this week. Seems young, no? Only a few years older than my dad.
Before I delve too much into this, I guess I should say I am a secular Jew. I was raised Jewish, and now have no idea what I am, so I tell people I am a secular Jew the way good looking girls in bars will tell you that they are “spiritual but not religious.” I believe in God. After that it’s all kind of screwy for me at least. (But hey—like Israel, I’m young. I’ve still got time to figure such things out.)
When a friend of mine who lived in Israel asked me how I planned to celebrate Israel’s birthday, I didn’t have an answer. Firstly because I had no idea it was Israel’s birthday this week and secondly because (like I feel is true for a lot of young Jewish people out there) I have some pretty mixed-up feelings about our state in the Middle East.
Israel is a great country. And it is a terrible country, much like our own. People who blindly support everything Israel has done are just as foolish and backwards as people who blindly support everything this country has done. Both countries are proud to a fault. Both at times seem to favor “kicking ass” over “taking a second to think before kicking ass.”
The difference between the two, I guess, that Israel is the size of New Jersey and surrounded by a lot of people who want them gone. The good old USA doesn’t have that problem. Though we sometimes pretend like we’re under threat from all angles, most of our enemies are more symbolic than tangible. Either that or they’re really fucking far away.
Israel doesn’t have that luxury. Their buses blow up pretty regularly. So when they invade Gaza, or refuse to sit down for talks, or do one of the other hundred frustrating things they’re bound to do every year, I view their actions as a product of their surroundings.
It’s kind of like when TV commentators excuse the actions of a young star in the NFL when he commits a horrible tackle that breaks someone’s leg. While they will express horror at the cheap play, they will then tack on, “Well, that’s just where he came from. How would you behave if you grew up like he did?”
But I guess that’s the stance I take towards Israel. I don’t condone the country’s actions but I guess I can see where they’re coming from. Basically: How would you behave if you grew up like it did?
And this doesn’t excuse all they’ve done in that country. They’ve killed Palestinians. A lot of them. And using American weapons instead of bus bombs doesn’t change the fact that people are dead. It’s all cowardly.
But I can understand it. I can understand where they’re coming from, I guess, much like I can understand an NFL player destroying an opponent’s knee as if his very life depended on it. There’s no logic to it. It’s disgusting. But unless you grow up like they did, you have no idea how they feel.
So Happy Birthday, Israel. I hope it’s a good one. But don’t forget that you’ve got a lot of growing up to do.
Nathan Savin Scott
Nathan Savin Scott is a journalist in Washington, D.C. He has written for Newsweek and The Bay Citizen.
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