October 20, 2015


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“Do you identify as Jewish or American?”

Over Fall Break, a relative asked me this question during a conversation concerning religion. This immediately puzzled me as I could not understand why the two identities would be – and were forced to be – mutually exclusive. I was puzzled because I could not understand the need nor have the ability-to rank my loyalties. I was puzzled because I never considered myself to be “either/or,” I am and always will be both. I am Jewish and I am American. One word does not modify the other just as one identity does not modify my sense of belonging to each community. My values and teachings from the two cultures conjoin and conflict to create my individual perspective on society, education and politics.

And as an American and a Jew, one of my strongest political beliefs is that my native country ought to support my religious homeland and vice versa. Especially now, during this intense period of conflict, I ask the United States to offer Israel aid and condemn the current Palestinian terrorist attacks. Since mid-September, a wave of violence in Israel has claimed lives and cultivated fear. The conflict was incited after Muslims and Israelis clashed over the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. Both regard the site as holy; however, as part of a political agreement designed to maintain peace, only Muslims are allowed to pray atop the hill. Attempting to alter the status quo, a group of Jewish activists have ascended the hill and asserted their right to pray there. This event was the catalyst for a series of random of acts of aggression.

Three weeks ago, Palestinian terrorists shot two parents point blank as their four children sat and watched from the backseat of a car. The children were miraculously unharmed. Days later, two more Israelis were stabbed to death in Jerusalem. One of the men died holding his two-year-old child in his arms. Last Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority declared a “Day of Rage” in Jerusalem. 24 hours of violence ensued with President Mahmoud Abbas’s party encouraging attacks. The stones throwings, stabbings, vehicular rammings and shootings have yet to cease and America has yet to speak.

The Obama Administration ought to condemn the Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel and President Abbas for encouraging the bloodshed. Though this announcement may not produce tangible change, it would nonetheless be a symbol of solidarity. I want America to stand with Israel as a gesture of respect and loyalty. I want America to stand with Israel not because I stand with Israel, but because at the core of both of these countries is the spirit of democracy and the essence of hope. Israel is America’s only ally in the volatile Middle East and a reliable friend that my fellow Americans and fellow Jews cannot afford to lose.

Having my identity questioned puzzled me, but it also forced me to reflect on my relationships to Judaism and to America as well as the relationship between Israel and America. I identify as equal parts Jewish and American and equally loyal to Israel and America as my opinions and experiences have not been influenced by either my religion or my nationality, but rather a combination of the two. Just as I cannot identify myself with only one word, Israel cannot stand alone. Just as I embrace American as my nationality, I hope America will embrace Israel, especially during these troubling times.