A piece by Adam Chandler at Tablet describes a group of American veterans of the Israeli army who meet in New York. It is named Aluf Stone after an American soldier of an earlier generation who went to serve in Israel. I know we’re not allowed to talk about dual loyalty. But in this day and age sometimes we have to. How many other foreign armies are calling to American youth?
And I wonder about the numbers. “Aluf Stone currently has hundreds of members around the world.”
[Lilit Marcus] sees the group as a social corrective for the isolation that many of the veterans feel: loyal to both Israel and the United States, yet with an experience that’s foreign to most other people in both countries.
“Aluf Stone occupies an interesting middle ground in the U.S. They don’t belong in U.S. veterans’ groups and networks, as they didn’t [all] serve in the American military,” she explained. “But when they interact with other Jews in the United States, they can’t necessarily share their experiences without the stories being seen as politically charged. Several of the men who attend Aluf Stone meetings have told me that they have shared stories with each other that they can’t even share with their own families.”
Some of the members also interact with Israeli-born IDF veterans who have since moved stateside—but again, their experiences are not exactly the same, and native-born Israelis sometimes look askance at these vets. A common phrase used by Israelis to describe the foreign soldiers who came to join the IDF is the Yiddish slur “freier,” which is somewhere between a fool and a sucker. While each man says the respect eventually came, the broader sense of integration often didn’t. In this way, Aluf Stone deals with the consequences of dual loyalty—of not truly belonging in either place.
“Some people aren’t sure why we’re in the States at all,” said Matthew Ronen, 30, another of the group’s founders—an Ohio native now living in New York City after his IDF stint. Some in the group say that Americans shun them for leaving home to serve abroad; others note that Israelis shun them for leaving Israel after their service. “If you served in the IDF, people wonder why you came back,” Ronen said. “Sometimes there’s a sense of failure there.”