Having been born and raised in America, and having lived in Israel since the age
of 21 – some 40-odd years – I have spent my life juggling my American-ness and
Sometimes, they overlap. The can-do attitude of the Yankee
Doodle Dandy image I grew up with, the resourceful, smart, hardworking and
successful American who needs and wants nothing more than opportunity to better
his life, is also a very Israeli image. The tank commander who finds himself
alone behind enemy lines and invents a formidable “Force Tsvika” to fool the
enemy, for example. Or any number of the “seat of the pants” ways in which the
early Israeli pioneers created a country.
As an American, nothing was
clearer to me growing up than that no obstacles stood in the way of my becoming
and achieving anything I wanted, not poverty, fatherlessness, or lack of
connections; and that nothing was worse or more demeaning than to be cared for
by any government program.
When my mother was widowed and left with three
small children whom she could not yet leave to go to work, she had no choice but
to apply for welfare. Government- subsidized low-income housing, which we had
had no choice but to apply for during our father’s illness, put a roof over our
heads. It was in Rockaway Beach, a horrible housing project of faceless red
brick buildings with chains around the grass.
And when my father died, I
remember the Housing Authority official, a young, officious-looking woman
wearing a smart black suit with a red flower (incidentally, she was black, which
I mention simply to upturn any stereotypes) told my mother that since she was
widowed, she now needed to move into a smaller apartment, giving up her bedroom.
“Since you don’t have a husband, you can sleep with one of your kids,” she
I will never forget my mother’s humiliation and helplessness as we
packed our things for the move down the hall. With her checklist of bureaucratic
regulations and heartlessness, this government official made it clear to me that
you never wanted to be in a place where you were dependent on government
programs, no matter how well-meaning and benevolent. The housing might have been
subsidized, but the price was inhumanly high.
My mother could have
remained on welfare and in government housing her whole life if she had wanted
to, but instead, she got a job as soon as she could.
My mother got off
welfare and out of the projects, moving us to a lovely two-family house in a
leafy street named after writer Charles Dickens. She worked as a senior
secretary until she retired, enjoying every minute, supporting her family with
no help from anyone. In her later years, what she enjoyed more than anything was
putting small bills into the white envelopes that came with the dozens of
charity solicitation letters that reached her every year.
the speakers at the Republican National Convention that took place in Florida
last week, I was moved by how many of the speakers told similar
Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, told how his Cuban
immigrant parents had arrived penniless to the US from a country no longer free,
and how America had allowed them the opportunity to work hard and dream
“My father worked as a bartender in the back of the room so that I
could stand at this podium in front of the room,” said Rubio.
again, I was moved by the celebration of loving, hardworking parents, loyalty to
wives, commitment to raising families, and the love of God. It was a
reaffirmation of the America I once knew, a place where people worked hard,
saved, and strived through education to better their lives. No one wanted, or
expected, handouts or quick riches. No one wanted, or expected, the government
to become part of their life, unless they were very, very unlucky, unthrifty,
lazy, ill, or had suffered tragedy.
President Barack Obama, speaking in
Omaha on September 1, characterized these ideas as a “rerun of the same old
policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years.” Yes, ideas
that I grew up with in the Fifties, ideas that turned America into the most
powerful country in the world. As Marco Rubio said, “the only change [brought
about by Obama] in the last four years is that hope is hard to find.”
I learned from my mother, the greatest gift government can provide for the poor
is employment opportunities and education. Or as Mitt Romney said: “What America
needs is jobs, lots of jobs.”
Obama – quite aside from his disastrous
policies toward Israel, which after four years of “talking to Iran” now leave us
facing a nuclear-armed, genocidal regime that continues to publicly declare its
intention of wiping Israel off the map – is destroying the best things about
America, my birthplace.
When my great-grandparents emigrated to America
from Fastov in the Ukraine in 1909, they came to get away from the all-pervasive
influence of government that restricted and embittered their lives and economic
activities. They came because America was a new country with new ideas; a
country that gave people not streets paved with gold, but opportunities to use
their creativity and labor to build something of their own. Many immigrants did
build businesses of their own, most of them mom-and-pop shops, that paid the
taxes that built the roads, not the other way around.
Listening to Mitt
Romney, who built something of his own with his creativity and hard work; to
Paul Ryan, whose parents did the same, I was flooded by the memories of the
America I had been born into, and the values I had been brought up
But something has happened to America in the past few years. I
don’t know how to describe it except to give you the following example. Years
ago, I was on a flight from one American city to another when the boarding-pass
machine broke down. After waiting patiently for more than two hours, we were
still told no one could board until the machine was fixed.
thinking to myself then: if this were Israel, some former tank commander-turned-airline employee would be writing out boarding passes by hand by this
point and getting this show on the road. The Americans seemed truly paralyzed by
this situation. The passengers made no demands that airline employees get their
act together, and seeming to regard the mess as an act of God.
the attitude I see in many of Obama’s supporters, who after the dismal failure
of the past four years wish to elect him for another term. I find that not only
inexplicable on a rational level, but anti- American in the deepest sense, going
against every American value I cherish.
As an Israeli, there is no
question in my mind that Mitt Romney, who spoke of Israel with such warmth, and
who believes a free world is a more peaceful world, will not be bowing to the
king of Saudi Arabia, or making a dear friend out of Turkish Islamist Ergodan
when he is elected. But the reason that I will use my overseas voting ballot to
vote for him is not because I’m Israeli, but because I am an American.
will vote for him not because his ideas are new, but because they are the same
solid, unchanging ideas that are the bedrock of America’s greatness. His
promises; to make use of America’s own energy sources to make her energy
independent; to forge trade agreements with consequences for countries that
don’t play fair; to cut the deficit by spending less; and to show America’s
friends more loyalty may not be new – but they will make America a better, more
Most of all, I believe him when he promises to get
America working again, ending the heartbreak of 23 million unemployed Americans.
It’s a promise his opponents will no doubt make as well. But unlike the
incumbent, a law professor with no experience in business of any kind, Romney is
a successful businessman with actual, real-world experience regarding how such
jobs are created. He is also a person grounded in tried and true American
values. He is someone I understand as I never have understood Barack Obama, and
Rededicating Americans to the ideas that once made their
country the most powerful force for good in the world may not be trendy or new,
but it is the best way forward for America, for Israel, and for every decent
person hoping for a better life everywhere in the world.
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