Last night, I attended the 4th of July celebrations at the home of the American Ambassador to Israel, His Excellency, Daniel Shapiro.
Among all the speeches delivered, I was most impressed by the words of our President, Shimon Peres. Let me preface by saying that, unlike many, I do not hold the man in high esteem. I have my own reasons.
However, the manner in which Peres spoke and the message that he conveyed were outstanding. In his sharp wisdom, piercing “poker eyes,” without notes and no teleprompter, President Peres left a deep mark on me and, as it seemed, on many of those present at the event.
He spoke about the role of America in the past century. Starting with WWI, the President noted that even though no threat was posed to American lives, the U.S. came to the rescue, joined the war efforts and through its involvement helped win it. How many of us remember that lesson in history?
The President then mentioned WWII. Again, though no immediate threat was facing the U.S. it enlisted itself to fight the war and probably through its involvement also helped end it sooner. I, personally have a warm place in my heart for the U.S. troops who liberated some of my relatives from the inferno of the concentration camps. The President further reminded us that the U.S. Marshal Plan which helped Europe come back to its feet following the devastating war, a plan of $13 billions, was a big chunk of its defense budget then.
America was there, is there now and will continue to be there always for many. Just like Israel is. Both countries and their people were always first to reach out and help nations, societies and entities devastated by disasters. Both countries always shared their resources with others and both countries, as much as they could, have given more opportunities to the downtrodden than any others.
Why, then, are these two countries so despised by so many? Why are these two democracies that share the same values, and fight many wars on behalf of many, so hated, and demonized?
My answer: jealousy. Some, mainly in New Zealand and Australia, call it “Tall Poppy syndrome.”
This term is used to describe someone who is envious and defamatory of those who are in higher political, social and , in my view, also moral position. And these are the positions where both the U.S. and Israel have been, at least historically. Traditional views in the past, primarily in European societies, envisaged the fall of both primarily because of their moral position and democratic values. Unlike European societies, many of which continue to enjoy the support of the U.S., though, both countries continued to thrive despite such predictions.
Part of the problem of the U.S. and Israel, as my dear friend, Roger Froikin, points out, is also that the world sees both the US and Israel as two countries that can be attacked and criticized without retaliation- two countries that want to be liked so much that they are ready to take abuse without it costing the abusers. .
I was lucky to have been born in Israel, the country I love more than any other. But I was also lucky to have had the opportunity to spend many years in the U.S., the country I consider my second Home and the one I owe so much to. I moved there to pursue an education, not because I wanted to but because I had no choice. It turned out to be a blessing. In the first four years of being there, I achieved more than I would have achieved in my Home, Israel, in many years. The U.S. awarded me opportunities like nowhere else. I was a stranger when I moved there. No one cared who I was, where I came from, what my background was. It opened its doors to me and welcomed me because of what it saw I could be. That is the greatness of a nation, a nation that provides Hope , Opportunity and a Future.
Today, like on any other fourth of July, I, an Israeli-American, salute America. I salute its values, its achievements and join all my fellow Americans in expressing our gratitude for this great nation!