Two flags flying, and 'I love them both the same'

For one proud American-Israeli great-grandmother, dual loyalty has always been a "non-issue."

Thelma Jacobsn's childhood home, with Israeli and American flags flying out front (photo credit: Courtesy)
Thelma Jacobsn's childhood home, with Israeli and American flags flying out front
(photo credit: Courtesy)
We have all seen the pictures. In Eretz Yisrael, they were dancing in the streets. the “armored vehicles” were struggling up the hills to the besieged city of Jerusalem. An exciting and moving and dangerous time indeed. But what were those of us doing who did not live here in 1948? What if you lived, say, in tranquil, leafy Connecticut? West Hartford in the late ‘40s was still very much a WASP town. Catholics and Jews were only starting to trickle into that lovely little community.
I was seven years old at the time this picture was taken. My Dad had enthusiastically – and to my mind, embarrassingly – hung those two flags on the front porch of our house on North Quaker Lane. Parents do have a way of embarrassing their children sometimes. As an adult I realized that my parents must have had a lot of nerve – chutzpa – to hang the Israeli flag. Jews were teetering on the very edge of respectability in that town in those years. Passersby asked if we were an embassy. Okay, it was a nice big old house. My mother carefully inscribed the date on the back of the photo.
These were the years in Connecticut when we in public school recited the Lord’s Prayer every morning. And then we all stood up and recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. A newcomer once asked in his faulty English, “What on earth are all the children doing with their hands over their hearts?” and I had just (mostly) learned the words. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands....” In my child’s mind, “for which it stands” sounded more like “for Richard’s pants....”
But never mind. There we were with two huge flags outside our house. Being seven years old, I just dimly recognized the theory of “dual loyalty.” My uncles taught me this. They were my mother’s younger brothers and still delighted in annoying their big sister. (How young they all were!) When they came to visit they would ask me, “Who do you love better, your mother or your father?” They knew if my mother caught them she would strangle them. But I always answered, “I love them both the same.” At that age, I already knew and said to myself that I loved them both differently.
I still look at dual loyalty as a non-issue. And I can still see those two flags waving on our front porch. If that Israeli flag hasn’t totally disintegrated by now, it might be seen hanging on my brother’s porch in Beersheba. It’s easy to recognize. The pale blue is now a peculiar shade of purple.
We proudly wish the State of Israel well on its 70th birthday. We are happy to be a part of it with our children, grandchildren and little “greats.” What a privilege to celebrate this day with all of Israel, together. May the almighty continue to watch over us and bless us all.
The writer has been married for more than half a century and is a great-grandmother with a passion for writing. She grew up in Connecticut and now lives with what she said is “the breathtaking privilege of raising her family (and now watching her children raise theirs) here in our own wonderful, exasperating 70-year-old country."