Like most everybody, I’ve been living the past few days in horror. The United States, my birthplace, my home for 55 of my 57 years is enveloped in turmoil. Israel, my homeland and my current home is inextricably linked to the fate of the US, so any weakening of American democracy is poisonous to Israel as well. I have been glued to the news like a rubbernecker on the Belt Parkway watching a rush-hour multi-car pileup and I can’t unsee the decapitated bodies sprawled on the tarmac.
Despite incitement from the holder of the highest office in the land, the foundations of America’s constitutional institutions are resilient. Power will be transferred (with God’s help peacefully) as prescribed by law. It appears that a reckoning has already begun, those who committed crimes in the riot are being hunted down, arrested and prosecuted. Many political leaders who in the past indulged the worst whims of the outgoing president have repudiated his last desperate grabs at holding onto power. Media platforms that profited from the ratings and traffic that his outrageous outbursts beget have finally sidelined him. The republic it seems will survive, for now.
But the actual physical pain I feel watching events unfold are not just from the attack on American democracy. Those who breached security to ransack and loot the Capitol were unabashedly anti Semitic and racist. Whether visible from the Confederate flags they waved or the “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts they wore, the hate and bile oozed from their pores. This was made all the more hurtful by the busloads of Orthodox and ultra Orthodox Jews who attended the rally that precipitated the riot in support of the lie that the election of Joe Biden can be overturned. If my social media feed is any indication, few of these fellow tribesmen of mine have taken time to reflect and reassess, if anything they have doubled down on their idol worship of this 21st century Satan.
It might be too soon for me to invoke my newly acquired Israeli citizenship but I will anyway. If continued support for this monster is based on his policy toward Israel, we no longer want it. Trust me when I tell you this, Trump is toxic here. Israel rode that bus while the wheels were still turning but once the engine caught fire he fast became history. Kfar Trump in the Golan where nary a tent has yet to be erected will soon be a parking lot or garbage dump and his name expunged. Every citizen of Israel is here because they or their ancestors fled anti Semitism somewhere in the world (even American olim like me if only indirectly). People here will argue with each other over the most mundane differences but share in their DNA an understanding that we are united in protecting each other from Jew hatred wherever it manifests itself, for eternity. My Aliyah and the automatic granting of citizenship I benefited from are part and parcel of a culture that bears responsibility for the safety of every Jew in every corner of the world. A government minister was being questioned recently on a national news program about the lockdown for Covid and specifically mentioned that Aliyah would not be curtailed because so deeply ingrained is Israel’s responsibility for every Jew that even a pandemic will not close the gates.
Israelis of course will forever be grateful to Trump for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and enabling four treaties with Arab/Muslim countries. But Israelis also know instinctively that if the cost of those things is the destruction of American values and democracy they’d rather give it all back. What’s the use of those things if America is no longer America?
I don’t know if Prime Minister Netanyahu will suffer politically for enabling and abetting Trump but he too is holding on to his power by a thread, his natural allies abandoning him as never before. What might save the prime minister is exactly what began the end of Trump’s political career; Covid. Very few people here believe the government has handled Covid well overall but to his credit Netanyahu is overseeing the most successful acquisition and distribution of the Covid vaccine in the world. Even a cynic like me believes he will keep his promise to vaccinate everyone in time for us to be able to sit together with our families at the Pesach seder this year. Netanyahu, like Trump might be seen as a corrupt demagogue but he sure knows how to make the proverbial trains run on time. Israel will always stress saving every life, ALWAYS.
I am encouraged by the sheer menchlechkeit exhibited by the president-elect who calls for healing both politically and from the pandemic. It restores hope and optimism that America will get past this. But healing cannot just come from the top down, it must come organically. I am not yet convinced that the cancer that began with the lies about Barack Obama’s birth and culminating in the falsehoods about the recent presidential election are over. Yet America has been fractured before and she always comes back, now we all pray she rallies one more time.
I’ve gotten a whole bunch of texts from friends and family back in the US who rather tongue in cheek tell me I got out just in time. Please no! America is not a place we run from, but to. This painful time must pass and it must pass with healing and unity, the alternative is too frightening.