Achikam (my youngest son, for those of you who don't know), spent most of the past week with a busload of young American college students visiting Israel on a Birthright tour. A standard part of these tours is that IDF troops join the Birthright groups. We haven't had much time to talk, and early tomorrow morning he's returning to his unit, but he briefly mentioned that American Jews and Israeli ones seem to express their Judaism in very different ways.
The last station of their 5-day joint tour was dedicated to Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl: Holocaust and Zionism, which not coincidentally are on the same hill, on the Western edge of Jerusalem: The Holocaust being the ultimate proof the Jews cannot rely on existing as a powerless minority among the nations, and Zionism being the movement to ensure they've got political power in their own nation.
The third part of the hill is the military cemetery: the price of having the political power. At the end of the day, before the IDF guys parted from the American Birthright group, Achikam took them all to visit Nitai Stern, his childhood friend who was killed last year fighting in Gaza.
Veteran readers may remember that Achikam was not able to be at Nitai's funeral, since he he was also fighting in Gaza at the time, so we went. This was what I wrote that day. More than a year after his death, he has now been introduced to 40 young Jews from New Jersey and Florida.