Saturday, June 22, 2013

Is Freedom Relative?

There seems to be a contrast between the definition of freedom in America and the definition of freedom in Israel. As Americans, we are raised thinking of our nation as “the land of the free.” Thanks to our forefathers and the men and women who continuously work to assure our safety and security, I have grown up with one of the greatest gifts of all: the ability to take our meaning of freedom for granted. In America, safety almost seems an afterthought. It is a given, a universal constant. Freedom takes on the meaning of racial, social, and gender equalities, the belief in the American dream and of hard work and opportunity

The land of Israel, meaning “struggle” in Hebrew, sometimes feels oppressed. A sentiment no one in a free country should feel, yet present because of their enduring public struggle for existence. In this country, freedom takes on a different meaning, and seems to pertain more to survival, and less to social liberty

The struggles of Israel are varied and complex, but at the most basic level they can be broken down to the same struggles of any diverse and developed nation. But of a nation of such small land mass with tensions seemingly on all sides and even within, the struggles cannot be hidden from the eyes of the population, and are transparent and public. Its transparency permeates into the society and culture, and the feeling of oppression I mentioned earlier may have stemmed from the population’s involvement in “sharing the burden.” The country’s notion that everyone is responsible for the defense of Israel, as evident in the mandatory conscription policies.

A universal draft or conscription outside of war wouldn’t likely mesh well with American culture, but for Israel it’s a part of it. To us, a part of our notion of freedom is that we are free to live our lives without being forced into the military. To the majority of Israelis, that notion of freedom does not exist.

L. A. W.

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