A casual observer might reach the conclusion that Israelis hate their country. Everybody from left to right seems to constantly criticize it. Any decision or avoidance of decision is basis for derision of the government at all levels. No one is immune, from the Prime Minister to the street cleaner. Every citizen seems to have at least one opinion. There is an old joke about Ben Gurion’s visit to the USSR in the 1950’s when Israel’s population was less than half of today’s 8 million. After being shown the magnificent achievements of Russia, Ben Gurion asks Stalin if anybody objects to these massive changes. Upon hearing Stalin’s answer that there were around three million critics, Ben Gurion retorts by saying that he has the same problem.
That being said, Israelis are very patriotic. Just this weekend, the Israeli flags at the Eurovision contest were larger than any others. Any international athletic achievement attains top news status even if the person involves does not become a hero. Average Israelis spontaneously defend their country throughout the Internet. During Independence Day last week, I saw countless people take time from the barbeques and watch the flyover of Israeli air force planes. Even those who have emigrated from the country are vehemently pro-Israel.
The basic and unique reason for this underlying consensus is quite simple. These are our airplanes, whether I agree or not with their use. These are our athletic achievements whether I believe athletes should be subsidized or not. This is our government, whatever my opinion of prime minister, not one does a favor to protect the Jews. This is even our humus, one eaten even by anti-Semitic leftists in the UK and France.
This feeling of “our” exists for most countries but not in the same sense as for Jews. For more than 2000 years, Jewish physical existence was dependent on the “kindness of strangers.” The results were often disastrous. 68 years of nationhood have changed little in terms of security. Yes, we may disapprove of many of its policies, but it is our country. We appreciate its existence.