"My neighbor was shot last weekend." A colleague of mine - an attorney who lives in an affluent New York City suburb - said that to me today. The statement would have been shocking, I suppose, if it hadn't been immediately followed by the explanation, "He was in Israel visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs." Oh. Right.

So, the circumstances of his shooting were not so strange. But I can't help being disgusted that this shooting, like so many others, is all but ignored by the U.S. government. Time after time, why are American victims of terrorism treated dismissively by their own country? Those of us that follow Israeli politics can call to mind dozens of such instances, ranging from the 1995 death of New Jersey college student Alisa Flatow in a bus bombing to the more recent shooting of Eitan and Na'ama Henkin in front of their four small children, in which the response of the American government has been tepid at best. It is just not so uncommon for such attacks to be completely ignored, as was the shooting of my colleague's neighbor.

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When the killing of American Jews in Israel is ignored or dismissed by America, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that antisemitism plays a role in that decision. And maybe it does, to some extent. But the truth is America is frequently callous to its citizens that encounter trouble overseas. Right now, there are approximately thirty Americans being held hostage overseas by various non-governmental actors (such as ISIS). More than 9000 are imprisoned - many for genuine crimes but there is a significant percentage that are essentially political prisoners. And nearly a thousand American children each year are kidnapped overseas by a non-custodial relative. None of these people are ever likely to even make the news unless they are unfortunate enough to get beheaded on video like journalist James Foley. By contrast, the government of Israel has repeatedly, in its short history, sent airlifts to evacuate its citizens - and Jews who were not its citizens - that were in danger in various parts of the world (Major such events include Iraq, Yemen, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Nepal). On one recent occasion, Israel even sent an airlift to pick up 2500 of its citizens that were stuck without a connecting flight on their return journey home from vacation. A single Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas was eventually ransomed in exchange for more than 1000 convicted terrorists.


As an American, and as a Jew, I find this dichotomy terribly hard to accept. America is a good and decent country in most respects, filled with kind hearted and generous people. More than half a million of us volunteered to help recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and we collectively donated more than $3 billion to help the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, half a world away. So how is it that we can be, collectively, so oblivious the suffering of our fellow citizens overseas? Is it only a matter of scale? After all, American is a huge nation with more than 300 million citizens - as compared to tiny Israel and the Jewish people who worldwide number less than the population of Florida. Or is it some basic cultural difference, an ability of Americans to simply not see these type of events? What is it that makes the genuinely good people of America care so little about what happens outside their own borders?

I cannot even begin to understand it.

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