The Israeli government is worried about a trickle of Israeli citizens moving to the United States; in order to lure some of them back it began running ads on websites that Israeli expats in the US often visit. Ads showed Israeli grandparents worried that their US-raised granddaughter thought Hanukkah was Christmas and so on.Once American Jews realized what was going on, a firestorm broke out. Various Jewish community leaders attacked the ad campaign as denigrating the value and vitality of the American Jewish experience. The Israeli government listened, thought, and withdrew the ad campaign. Read the full story in the New York Times.What this points to is a deep difference between the way many American Jews understand Zionism and the way many Israelis think about it. For most Israelis, Zionism is more than the belief that there should be a state of Israel. Theodor Herzl was an assimilated Austrian journalist who he covered the trial of Albert Dreyfus, a French Jewish army officer falsely accused of spying for Germany. Seeing the blatant anti-Semitism the Dreyfus Affair set off in France, considered the most enlightened and modern country in Europe, Herzl concluded that it was hopeless to fight anti-Semitism. Gentiles would never accept Jews as fellow citizens; assimilation was a dead end. Jews needed a state of their own because ultimately no one else would have them. Herzl is widely considered the founder of Zionism, and the idea that Jews cannot flourish or be safe except in a state of their own is deeply rooted in his thought.Others, both from religious and secular viewpoints, took this farther. Jews didn’t just need their own state as a refuge; Jews like other peoples could only live their culture and express their identity fully in a state of the own. The Jew in a ‘foreign’ country, many Zionists believed, was a crippled, stunted Jew. Jews needed to be farmers, soldiers, statesmen in their own land speaking their own language to fulfill their destiny as Jews. The diaspora Jew was weak, cringing and, well, liberal. The Jew in Israel was tough, realistic, responsible and free. To move from the diaspora to Israel was to dewussify, to emancipate yourself from being an exile and outsider, to embrace and fulfill your full human and Jewish potential.More, given that Jews could only be safe and fully Jewish in Israel, it is the duty of Jews, even Jews living comfortably in foreign lands, to go to Israel and help build the state. A Jew who hasn’t returned to Israel is at some level a shirker, someone who has chosen the path of private comfort over public duty.These ideas have only a limited appeal among American Jews. Most American Jews disagree with Herzl’s main point that non-Jews will ever accept Jews as full fellow citizens. That might be true for European and Middle Eastern Jews, they say, but not for Jews in countries like America, Canada and Australia. And many American Jews strongly resent the belief common among many Israelis that Jews outside Israel lead stunted, incomplete Jewish lives. American Jews, who sense that despite occasional blips and outbreaks, anti-Semitism has been on the decline in the US for a long time, often think of Israel as a refuge for Jews in countries like Russia, but in no way do they see it as their own future home.Over time, the gap between the two visions has widened. For one thing, American Jews who come to accept the Israeli version of Zionism often emigrate to Israel. Golda Meir, Israel’s fiery prime minister from 1969 to 1974, grew up in Milwaukee before emigrating to Palestine in 1921. American Jews who feel their lives are incomplete outside Israel and that they have a duty to build the Jewish state often end up in Israel, but this is a minority in an American Jewish community which feels generally feels that America is also a promised land.Just as American Jews tend to be more liberal in their politics than many of their American gentile neighbors, they are often more liberal in their views than many Israelis. In Israel, only Orthodox rabbis are recognized in certain ways by the state; only a minority of American Jews are Orthodox. American Jews generally (though not always) oppose Israeli settlements and want Israel to take more risks for peace; Israelis, especially on the right, resent what they see as idealistic posturing by people who don’t have any skin in the game.American Jews by and large still buy the idea that Herzl and his Zionist associates believed could not work: that Jews, remaining fully Jewish, can participate as full and equal citizens outside a Jewish state, at least in the United States. Strong Zionists in Israel continue to believe that Jews need to live in Israel to be fully Jewish, and that Israel needs to gather the world’s Jews within its borders to be safe and complete.A single post cannot capture the full complexity of the various positions on this issue, or do full justice to the wide range of beliefs both in Israel and in the United States. But one important takeaway is that American Jews by and large feel as deeply at home in the United States as anybody else, and that a deeply rooted belief in American exceptionalism combined with a strong sense of their American identity often leads American Jews to quarrel, sometimes bitterly, with various strands of Israeli opinion — and even the Israeli government itself.