By: Pete Zubof
As I continue to watch the events unfold in Gaza, I cannot help but be saddened by the unnecessary loss of life on both sides. When I see pictures of the sixty-four Israeli soldiers, I can appreciate the pain of the loss of comrades in arms. It is heartwarming to see the overwhelming show of support and sympathy from American Jews. Yet, as an American service member, I am left to wonder: where has your support been for your own countrymen…your own American heroes?
The deaths of sixty-four Israeli soldiers are certainly tragic. Yet consider that, since 9/11, the United States Defense Department reports that 6,825 American soldiers have died in the Global War on Terror (Iraq and Afghanistan). Consider additionally that fifty-eight of those American casualties have been our Jewish brothers and sisters. Response to the sacrifice of these Jewish American service men and women has been relatively restrained compared to the reaction to the sixty-four deaths in Gaza. Those losses have been front page news across the American Jewish diaspora and top conversation topics in any Jewish gathering. Yet when an American Jew dies in combat, you’re likely to see a response only from his or her local community. Most of you probably know the name Hadar Goldin. Can you name even a single Jewish service member killed in service of the United States?
To illustrate this disparity in support, one has to turn to the internet. For the sixty-four Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, there are already donation pages and dozens of support blogs. There have been emergency rallies and memorials. From my Jewish friends on Facebook, there is an endless feed memorializing the tragedy in Israel. You can even send “hugs” to an IDF soldier, and many of you may have done so. Yet how many of you realize that you can also send such “hugs” of support to American soldiers?
Over a decade of sacrifice on the part of Jewish American service members, our community has been very quiet. Run a Google search for “Support Jewish soldiers” and you will get an almost even split between support for American service members and IDF soldiers. This is despite the fact that America has been at war since 2001 and the latest crisis in Gaza is only a few weeks old. This serves as a reminder of the stark difference in empathy that the American Jewish community has for service in the IDF versus service in our own armed forces.
My goal in writing this piece is neither to divert attention away from the Israeli cause nor to diminish the bravery and sacrifice of the sixty-four Israeli soldiers killed in action. Rather, I would ask the members of the American Jewish community to remember that Jewish sacrifice is not isolated to Israel. When this latest crisis in Gaza comes to a conclusion, the Israeli soldiers will return to the relative safety of their own borders, yet our Jewish American brothers and sisters will remain in harm’s way on foreign shores. I ask you to remember and honor their sacrifice just as you do for the soldiers in Israel.
Hopefully the crisis in Gaza will abate and the fragile calm that has existed for so many years in Gaza will return. American troops, however, will still be in harm’s way. As American Jews with a lot to be thankful for in our own country, we shouldn’t forget them. There has never been more that you can do to support your own soldiers at home, including Jewish service men and women. Organizations like the Wounded Warrior Program and Got your Six have even made such support trendy. Do you want to keep your support to Jews in uniform? Organizations like Jews in Green (www.jewsingreen.com), Jewish War Veterans of America (www.jwv.org), and Kosher Troops (koshertroops.com) are here to help. Your love and support for your Jewish American service men and women are just as important as that for those in Israel.