Temperance, the highest of the classical virtues, should define the Jewish conservative approach to Zionism and Israel. But first, some background.
Coming from a family of Israeli founders and pioneers, I’m the real deal. My Zionist credentials are immaculate, and indeed, I am a big fan of my former home state. But having become an American citizen, I am also an enthusiastic American patriot. As an American, and especially one of a conservative disposition, I embrace traditional America’s heritage and symbols – America not as a polyglot shopping mall for the world, but that of Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, the Bill of Rights, the majesty of purple mountains, and the ancient Anglo-Saxon civilization from which the country originated.
I reject incompatible and unfettered immigration to America in the same way and for the same reasons that I reject unfettered and incompatible immigration to Israel. I believe the American republic should pursue her own interests and not subjugate herself to universal principles of “social justice” in the same way that I believe the Israeli republic should do the same.
Many Jewish organizations in America seem to celebrate every little bit of Israeliana – falafel tasting as part of “Israel Day” on campus, parades, sponsored birthright trips to the ancestral homeland, Israel-themed summer camps, and more! To the outside observer such enthusiasm brings about a natural question: If you’re so attached to Israel, what are you doing in America?
Well, the answer is nuanced. First of all, many groups in America innocently celebrate their own heritage. Holland, MI is known for its Dutch festivities. Irish Americans have St. Patrick’s Day. Puerto Ricans have their famous traffic-blocking parades. Neither case competes with the American polity but compliments it with good cheer and fun folklore.
In addition, the Jewish attachment to Israel is probably more comparable to the Catholic attachment to the Virgin Mary. It transcends nostalgia towards one’s old country as in the Irish case (indeed, the vast majority of American Jews have no Israeli roots at all). Judaism, somewhat like Shintoism, is a highly localized faith. In its classical version, it encompasses God, the Torah, and Zion (Israel). For millennia Zion was symbolic, but now it is not. This is of tremendous meaning for almost all Jews, as much as the Virgin Mary is to Catholics – something of a manifestation of our ancient longing, here in reality.
Yet Israel is still a country, a political entity. As John Locke argued about the Catholicism of his day, it is by nature loyal to a foreign prince. Therefore, it would behoove Jewish organizations to balance every ounce of Israel affinity with two ounces of sincere affinity towards America. Celebrate the great outdoors, the brilliant oratory of Alexander Hamilton and Daniel Webster, the ancient system of the common law, the Bill of Rights, the English language, and our unique constitutional democracy, planted in a thousand years of Anglo-Saxon civilization.
Jews that cannot conjure within themselves the same enthusiasm towards their own country, should probably make Aliyah. Life as a stateless shadow, never belonging, lacks dignity.
Be temperate and balanced. For every Hatikvah recite the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere; for remembering ancestral Zion, remember Zion, Utah.