Today is December 16, 2019 -

A couple of differences

Israel and America are both first-world democracies whose citizens share many of the same values. Moreover, as Jews we also share much of the same history and culture. I often write about my comfort in visiting Israelis and how easy it is for me to graciously accept home hospitality whenever I visit. Likewise, I enjoy opening my home to guests when they visit our community.

Nevertheless, this week I was reminded that not everything between our countries is the same.

The first reminder came on Monday night. We were enjoying a visit from a dozen eighth graders and their two chaperones from our partnership community, Eshkol. During the community commemoration of Yom Ha’zikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day), the students shared some personal stories about casualties from Israel’s wars or terrorism. Most of us in America, fortunately, have no personal connection to military casualties. I know of one great-uncle killed in WWII, decades before I was born. Our Memorial Day has been reduced to a long weekend filled with barbeques. In contrast, every Israeli has a personal connection with loss. When the siren is heard throughout all of Israel to commemorate Yom Ha’zikaron, everyone stops everything he and she are doing (even driving) to stand at attention.

The second reminder came on Thursday. I was driving a few of the kids on routes 90 and 88 to visit Howe Caverns. One of the kids remarked how green the grass was and how many trees we have. I replied, “Keren Kayemet (JNF).”

“Really?” he asked.

“No. The trees came with the country. They were here when we got here. And, if you hadn’t noticed, it’s been raining every day since you got here. Rain keeps everything green.”

This was a tough one for the kids. These kids live in a desert. Sure, they see green, but only because of drip irrigation, desalinization, and water recycling. Without Israeli ingenuity and our support, their beautiful region would return to the sand desert that the pioneers found.

As American Jews, we certainly have our issues. These are challenging times. However, let’s not overlook that fact that we also have so much for which to be thankful.

Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York

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