Dear Young American Zionist,
You want to help Israel in any way possible, and you’re fired up by stories you’ve heard and movies you’ve seen about Israel’s heroic soldiers, commandos, and Mossad agents. You meet some guy with an accent who persuades you that Israel’s future depends on some classified documents you’ve got access to at your job. Here’s your chance to place yourself among those heroes.
Don’t do it.
Why not? Because it’s not the right thing for you to do as a Zionist, and not the right thing for you to do as a citizen of the United States of America.
Unfortunately, because Israel has had to fight to survive, fighting has become, in the eyes of too many, the equivalent of Zionism. Performing military–or espionage–service in or for Israel is seen as the ultimate form of hagshama, of the realization of the Zionist dream.
Unfortunately, the Israeli government and Zionist organizations have encouraged such equivalency by creating programs in which young people can perform military service in the IDF and then go home to live out their lives in American wealth and comfort. I’ve called for the abolition of such programs here.
Zionism means settling in Israel and living your life here. The ultimate form of hagshama is to work here and raise a family and to be an involved and conscientious citizen. Military service is important, indeed essential, to defend Israel, but the IDF is a tool for defending Israel, not a value in and of itself. I say this as a long-serving IDF infantryman: the person who comes here only to fight, with the express purpose of returning to America after completing his or her service, perverts the essential nature of Zionism.
I don’t believe that every Jew must or should live in Israel. If you have decided that you prefer to live in America, or if personal or professional circumstances force you to defer aliya, then you remain an American citizen. If you live in the U.S., you should be a concerned and active citizen of your country. If you are moved to perform military service, then the country whose military you should serve in is that of the United States. The United States quite reasonably views spying for a foreign state–even a friendly one–as a serious crime.
Israel needs good citizens, workers, entrepreneurs, community activists, fathers and mothers much more than it needs soldiers. If you can move here and become one of us, that’s great. If you need to stay in the U.S., that’s fine. But don’t pretend you can live in a netherworld, enjoying the benefits of an American life while fighting or spying for Israel. It’s wrong, and you might end up in jail.