Yoni Leviatan
How to be Jewish: Be good. The end.

Americans in Israel – Raise Your Voice

I’m a huge, huge fan of the Times of Israel and tell everyone I know to read it. I honestly believe it’s the best source of journalism coming out of Israel, and in addition to the reporting I think there are some excellent blog writers who I’m also a big fan of. But you’re all kidding yourselves if you think native Israelis read your very meaningful words. I wish they did, but I don’t know any “real” Israeli that reads Israeli news in English. CNN? Yes. Times of Israel? Halevai.

So I’m writing this for all my fellow olim, in particular us American-Israelis, and coincidentally on the 4th of July. You’re once again kidding yourself if you grew up abroad and think you’ll ever lose that first part of your hyphenated identity, no matter how much army service you do. My parents are both Israeli. Most of my extended family lives here. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor who served in the Haganah, while my grandfather and his three brothers all fought in ’48.

I’m incredibly proud of the fact that my family fought for and helped build this country, yet in this respect it doesn’t matter one iota because I know that I will always be an American-Israeli, both in my mind and in the minds of others. And I embrace both sides of that hyphen with a ton of pride because that is what will make a difference in days like these.

I’ve only been living here five years, but one thing I’ve learned is that you absolutely do not have to be born here to be a “real” Israeli. All you have to do is speak your mind like one.

If you’re a rational American who loves Israel then you have to be saddened by what is going on right now. It has to make you crazy to turn on the news, see demonstrations in the streets, and not be able to tell the difference between our people and those on Al-Jazeera, when we know so well that we are not them, and being like them will not help us achieve our goals.

I am not a “peacenik” who believes peace is worth every risk possible, but peace is not a dirty word in and of itself. I believe in using every weapon we have to deal with rockets and kidnappers, but not every Arab is our enemy and we must help our fellow Israelis understand that.

Americans know better than anyone what racism looks like. We know the difference between legitimate words of defense and outright words of hate. We come from a country that was in the depths of hell 150 years ago and today has a miracle for a president, his incompetent non-leadership notwithstanding.

Israel today is not on either end of the spectrum. We are smack in the middle and we need to do everything in our power to tip the scale in favor of miracles. (Don’t take my analogy too literally – I don’t want anything but a Jewish-Israeli with an officer’s rank as our prime minister.)

You want to live in Israel? You want to be a “real” Israeli? Then get in the face of anyone you see who doesn’t know the difference between “Death to Terrorism” and “Death to the Arabs,” and explain it to them. Stop talking to all your fellow immigrants and start talking to the native-born Israelis who need to hear a different voice, now more than ever.

If you made Aliyah then you have every right to speak your mind, whether you’ve been here for ten years or ten days. This is your country, too, and don’t let anyone cause you to feel otherwise. Be the “naive American” who hasn’t been here long enough, and tell every cynical Israeli on the right and the left that they’ve been here too long. They need to know that it doesn’t have to be like this, that there are still people who believe in the impossible and are willing to work for it.

As for the Americans and Jews everywhere who don’t live in Israel? Your voice is also important, but realize that it carries absolutely no weight with anyone here. It doesn’t matter how much money you contribute or how Jewish you think you are, you have no say in what goes on in our country until you move here and deal with the reality. When you decide to send your kids to the army, then you can tell us what to do with ours.

About the Author
Yoni Leviatan is a British-born, American-raised, Israeli-blooded musician, content producer and writer. His songs have been licensed to MTV, CNN, ESPN, PBS and others while receiving nationwide airplay on over 200 American radio stations. His production work has led to projects with Warner Bros., Waves Audio, Abbey Road Studios, YouTube and Spotify. Originally from Coral Springs, Florida, he's been living in Tel Aviv since 2009 where he spends his free time writing about Israel and politics with articles featured in Newsweek, Times of Israel and The Forward.