All year I work hard to reinforce my Jewish-Zionist-Israeli conception of myself and to instill it in my children. I talk to them about the importance of serving their country, by serving in the army or by going to college in Sderot; about how we must preserve our heritage and traditions. And about why you need to know who you are as an Israeli and a Jew.
And then family and friends send their kids to Israel for the summer on Birthright and other youth group trips and the boundaries fade and the walls of identity tumble. My niece from Atlanta came with a program from the Reform movement. My best friend from high school’s daughter came with a National Conference of Synagogue Youth (Orthodox) group, in which almost no one was observant. And then my wife’s nephew, Alexander Levy, who’s not even Jewish, arrived for a visit.
Alexander is a dark-haired, fine-featured, 19-year old French rugby player and aspiring entrepreneur. He wears a Star of David pendant, has a great-uncle who is a Shas teshuva (return to religion) preacher, and is the son of Momi, a Yom Kippur War tank commander. His mother is Veronique, nominally Catholic, born in a small town in southeastern France to not particularly church-minded parents.
Along with his sister and his father (Veronique was kept at home by her job), Alexander spent the weekend at our apartment. He hung out with my younger son and his friends, kicked a soccer ball around, slept a lot.
On previous visits, I’ve itched to talk to Alexander about what it means to him that he has family like us in Israel . . . [Read the rest on the Jerusalem Report website–come back here to comment!]