Wave Your Flag

[DISCLAIMER: This article is not a satire. While this is a satire blog, satire is a tool I employ in the hopes of making a point. Occasionally, there are issues and ideas I feel are better conveyed when expressed straightforward. This is one of those issues.]
I was the “resident Zionist” at my high school, a label that did not endear me to the dominantly Ultra-Orthodox (read: non-Zionist) Jewish Studies faculty to say the least. Along these lines, my tenth grade Rabbi gave me a nickname that still echoes in my head until this very day; he called me the “flag waver,” suggesting I was not sincerely passionate about Israel and aliyah. Four years later I decided to move to Israel and it was with the utmost excitement that I ran to tell my Rabbi of his underestimation of me. Without missing a beat he shot back, “I hope there is a place there for you to learn some Torah over there.”
The Rabbis childish response notwithstanding, the veracity of how important a role Torah plays in Israel has often been challenged. While I always knew this charge to be foolish, the truth was right outside my window one recent cold wintry evening. Seven floors up, I suddenly heard the blaring of Jewish music on the street below. Filled half with anger and half with curiosity, I saw a car covered in holiday lights driving slowly through the streets, the source of the “noise” that had piqued my interest, and a group of people were following behind swaying in a rhythmic trance. It turned out to be a Hachnassat Sefer Torah, a dedication of a new Torah scroll for a neighborhood Sephardic synagogue. The trailer the truck was towing was in fact a portable talit canopy on wheels, under which a few men were dancing with the brand new scroll. That was shocking enough. What was even more shocking, to me, was that the truck driving the procession had a 1-800 phone number on its side. I was astounded by the fact that there was so much of a demand for something like this that people could make a legitimate business out of it. To me this was the manifestation of the passage "Ki Lo Al HaLechem Livado Yichyeh HaAdam, Ki Al Kol Motzai Pi Hashem Yichyeh HaAdam; That not by bread alone does man live, rather by everything that emanates from Hashem''s mouth, does man live." (Deuteronomy 8:3). In the case of these Torah party planners, the Torah was literally sustaining them. They have made a business out of glorifying the addition of G-d’s word into our world. It was as if the words of the passage had jumped off the parchment and into my streets (doing a strange Sefardi dance no less).
It immediately dawned upon me that Rabbi’s jab was certainly incorrect, but not in the way I had previously thought. He asked me if there was a place “over there” to learn torah. I unenthusiastically responded that there is, but the better answer is that Israel is not just a place to learn Torah but a place to witness Torah; to live Torah. Everyone knows that the physical landmarks in Israel help the Torah come alive but what is far too often overlooked is that the people do as well.
It was with this epiphany that I have finally made my peace with being the “flag waver.” In moving to Israel I gained the ability to not just live a life of Torah but live a life THROUGH Torah and that is why I am a Zionist.
Last week Iran, Louis Farrkahn, and Julian Assange all tried to label “Zionist” as a dirty word. My Rabbi (and I have no intention of drawing a connection between him and the aforementioned malcontents) could not say the word without the accompaniment of a cynical smirk. This condescending viewpoint of Israel is patently misguided and the world would be tragically remiss to buy into the propaganda.
The Jewish people and the Torah are one entity and the land of Israel is the foundation on which the Torah lives and breathes. This means that we are a peaceful nation (when we are allowed to be), not a racist one or one bent on world domination. We are a nation that strives to live an earnest life based on the rock solid infrastructure the Torah provides for us. With that truth in mind, I borrow the theme song for last year’s World Cup (and had my rabbi told me that Israel makes you follow soccer he may have had a more persuasive argument) to impart to anyone who has had their beliefs and ideals challenged while standing up for Israel, continue to stand tall and show your unwavering support for the land of Israel, and always be proud to “wave your flag.”