Evangelical Christian chaplains love Israel. I mean they really love Israel. If they believed that marriage could be between anything other than one man and one woman, they would think about marrying Israel.
During an intensive training seminar for all chaplains in the Western Pacific, I found myself lunching this week with a Catholic, a Methodist, a Baptist and a Mormon (the latter two precluded any activity in a drinking institution). As the conversation shifted from complaining about the classes to moral outcries regarding the politics of the day, I found that my love of (and more nuanced relationship with) the State of Israel sounded significantly shabbier than my colleagues’.
But it also felt safer.
I have been asked on more than one occasion about having dual-allegiances: “What would happen if the US declared war on Israel?” (too easy, won’t happen) “Is it weird for Jews to serve in the military of a Christian country?” (this one required significantly more discussion). But it’s easier just to avoid the conversation, to dial down the rhetoric, and to be true to my lefty positions.
In the wake of Jonathan Pollard’s family’s most recent appeals for clemency, I find myself pushing farther away. While before my entry to the military, nobody in the world would have accused me of being a Pollard supporter (my loathing for JP is well documented on many-a-listserve), back then I can’t say I thought about Pollard on a regular basis.
But things change. Near almost every secure office workspace, I see a picture of Jonathan Pollard (and others who have passed classified intelligence) standing over me like a hound. Mug shot. Name. Crime. Sentence. There is nothing on the picture that says anything about Israel, but I know.
My opinion is also informed by my Navy family. It makes me upset and uncomfortable that, following Pollard’s capture in 1985, Jewish personnel of the military were looked at differently. I am told that Jewish personnel felt uncomfortable covering their heads – not because they were ashamed of being Jewish, but because they were looked at as possibly having dual-allegiances.
The truth is that we do have two allegiances. While I have never served in the IDF, I am eternally bonded to my brothers and sisters who lay their life down for Israel. While I have never voted in an Israeli election, I get excited, angry, and vocal about whatever travesty, sham or mockery is on the front page of Ha’aretz. And while I don’t live in Israel, I am part a civilization that has been yearning for a state of our own for 2000 years. Libi ba-Ma’arav, va-anochi b’sof Mizrach.
As I finish making the falafel for tonight’s “Yom HaAtzma'ut in Okinawa: Celebrating Israel in the American Military”, I am anticipating a phenomenal discussion. Here’s our topic: In this age – post War of Independence, post-Six-Day War, post-Pollard and post-Liberty – “Can I serve in the American military and be a true supporter of Israel?” Should be interesting, to say the least.
Happy Yom HaAtzma’ut!