I have to respond to Paula’s post on the difference between being Jewish and being a Jew. I would have just left her misguiding ideas alone, but she used strong language about differing opinions, so I think it needs to be addressed.
First, the etymology. “Judaism” comes from being of the tribe of Judah or of Benjamin, which was absorbed by Judah after the civil war in the ancient land of Israel that left those two tribes to survive while the other 10 were “lost”. With some believing that the tribe of Reuben went to Africa, we accept them as Jews because of their heritage/history, faith, and differentiating culture. So before you can say there is a difference between “Jewish” identification and identification as a “Jew”, you have to define Judaism.
It’s not just a religion. It could be a race, because you can find it in DNA. See this video, at 3:29 – “So, I’m a Muslim Jew”.
Judaism could be a culture because there are Jewish rules for food, clothing, housing, and life priorities, which are basically the defining characteristics of a culture. Of course, it is also a religion. But, you can be a Jewish Buddist, or a Jewish Atheist, which makes it seem like our definition of religion is not strictly the same as what is thought of as a religion.
Then there is the etymology of the other word. The one that Paula didn’t use, but which was the elephant in the corner of her post: Zionism. Zion comes from the Aramaic “tsion” which means “pure”. The Ark was housed in a tent inside other tents, and to get to it, you had to be pure. To enter the Holy place, you had to be Pure. So the ancient Israelites came to mean both pure and holy in one word. “By the rivers of Babel, there we sat and we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The idea of the Holy Land and Zion being the land of return came at about 587 BCE.
The idea of the Land of Israel, the land of return, Zion, is the ideal for Jews living outside of Israel. For those who are Jewish in the faith-sense, in the religious sense, identifying with the Land of Israel is part of identifying with your heritage and culture and the thousands of years of your family and history. But the Land of Israel is a memory. The modern State of Israel is a political, economic, legal entity.
We can’t get 10 Israeli Jewish citizens in one room to agree on all the points of politics and current events. So why should we think that Jewish citizens of other countries have a duty to support the modern State of Israel, no matter what?
Don’t you see? For every thinking, reasoning person who disagrees with Israel, that is another weight on the balance of the pro-Israelis of all religions. If all Jews were pro-Israel always, without thought, their opinions would not be counted anywhere in the world. Because we have both sides represented in every conversation, those who support the State are able to defend their position with the same logic that they took their stance.
Paula said “Not a one of those Adjectives would have fought for America; only a few have ever been to Israel”, and that’s where I see red. My grandfather and great-uncles fought for America during WWII. My brother is a career officer in the USAF right now. Jewish Americans are part of the greatness of the USA. As Jewish Europeans are part of the greatness of every country where they choose to live and reach for potential – good, bad, brilliant, otherwise. Those who identify as Jewish are not less than those who identify as Jews.
And those who are Zionists are not any more admirable than those who do not support Israel blindly.
To those who believe that loving Israel and loving our heritage is the same thing, I want to tell you a little story. I was in college, in Jerusalem, discussing a historical case of mental health with my professor. A young Jewish woman lived most of her adult life in institutions, labeled hysteria what was probably clinical depression. The fact that she was Jewish was part of her medical history. I mentioned, as an 18-year-old Jewish American Israeli Zionist, that if she could have come to Israel, it might have saved her life, as it seemed a great part of her illness was a sense of not belonging, of having no purpose in the world. My prof said, “That is your cure, your answer. Coming here worked for you. But this young woman was mentally ill. She would have been ill wherever she was. Zionism is a political movement, not a utopia.”
What works for you, is not for everyone. You are welcome to your passions. And I’ll smile politely when you talk about anything I disagree with. But when you offend my family, and demean my American home and the people who choose to live as Americans of whatever religion, the gloves come off.