This question really pissed me off. I had to choose a topic to write an essay on for my Hebrew test. One of the options was to describe how Israel is a little America. Other options included: write about your family; describe the perfect spouse; or expose the secret to making matzah balls come out fluffy like my mother makes and not so hard like the ones my wife makes.
Even though I have been studying Hebrew for years now, I am still not fluent. The reason for my lack of fluency is laziness. I can get away with English most of the time. Most of the time I live in Florida and it is relatively easy to get around in Florida with English. It is easier to get around Florida with Spanish but you can manage in English. In Israel, you can also manage with English. But I am motivated to improve and decided to enroll back in Ulpan class this July at the University of Haifa. Thus the need to write my essay.
I chose to write my essay on why Israel is not a little America. After all, if Israel is just a little America, why would I have gone through all the difficulties involved in moving here? Obviously, I think there is a difference between the two countries. The problem is that I had to write in Hebrew and I fear that I failed to properly make my argument. I may have mistakenly written a piece about eggplants. Thus the need for this piece in English.
I will admit that both Israel and America have similar roots. Just like America, Israel was founded by pioneers who were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. (In Hebrew, if you reverse the order of two letters, “pioneers” becomes “eggplants”.)
In America, the pioneers came to be free from government. The pioneers united to build a new country with a government designed to protect the individual rights of each of its citizens. That these brave pioneers fought to establish such a government was a gift to all people everywhere. It is a government that declares “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
My grandparents were able to leave the oppression of Eastern Europe in the early 1900s and find both security and opportunity in the USA. One of my grandfathers became a doctor. My other grandfather sold furniture. Both were able to build homes and raise their families with little fear of persecution simply because they were Jewish. The government protected them.
In the USA, the goal is Freedom.
In Israel, the pioneers came not to build a new country. The pioneers came to redeem their old country, their promised land. The pioneers of Israel did not need to create new values. The idea that all men are created equal was well established thousands of years earlier in our Torah and reinforced by our prophets and our rabbis. Freedom was not the goal, but freedom is a requirement.
America provides a model that helped and continues to help other countries create governments whose purpose is to protect the rights of its citizens. America’s goal is that all people, everywhere can be free.
Israel is to serve as a different model. Israel is to be a country that models what people should do with their freedom. Freedom is not the goal. Freedom is the tool needed to reach the goal. The goal is redemption, to reveal your true purpose given to you by God. This is simply described by the prophet Micah, “To act justly. To love mercy. To walk humbly with your God.”
Israel’s goal is Redemption.
Israel is not a little America. America has its role. Israel has another role.