Last fall, there was a news item about South Africa potentially banning dual citizenship. Local analysts said that the decision was being considered to stop South Africans from serving in the IDF. It seems the idea didn’t go anywhere, because dual citizenship is still allowed, but it does raise the topic of divided loyalty, an anti-Semitic canard Jews know well. It seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years, which is somewhat ironic as the number of foreign Jews serving in the IDF has increased. Serving a foreign army would be a legitimate argument in any debate on divided loyalty. Yet, at least when it comes to Americans, it doesn’t seem that serving in the IDF makes what are called “lone soldiers” less American, or less patriotic.
A recent interview we did with a Coloradan who proudly served in the IDF got us thinking: Why, as Americans, don’t we find it strange that an American is joining a foreign army?
Many American synagogues have an American flag — and an Israeli one. In many American Jewish schools, students recite the Pledge of Allegiance — and sing Hatikva. Does that exist in other Diaspora communities? Feedback from readers would be most welcome. Admittedly, we have no frame of reference, but this American Jewish dual — not divided — loyalty seems unique.
After much thought, we’ve come to what was probably an obvious conclusion: For American Jews, Israel, and its army, is not “foreign” but a second home. That’s why we sing Hatikvah, because we know, as much as America is our home, there is an ancestral homeland, too. In Israel. Jews are the original “integrated immigrants” that country’s struggling with immigration problems aspire to. Jews have always had the ability to adopt local customs while remaining fiercely Jewish. We have crafted the ability to be both one nationality, and another.
The way the Welsh turned to Eliezer Ben Yehudah to learn how to revive a dead language, immigrant communities could turn to Diaspora Jews. There is a way to keep your heritage and, simultaneously, integrate a new one.