02/06/2012 01:37 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2012

My Zionist Double

The double, or doppelgänger, has been used by numerous writers (for example, Saramago, Nabokov, Dostoevsky, Borges, Edgar Allen Poe, Philip Roth, Stevenson) as a literary device to delve into our dual nature, the complexities of the soul, our darker hidden sides. From a much humbler position and with my limited literary skills, I ponder my own double, who most likely is living in Haifa or Tel Aviv, and is a Zionist -- not a hardcore fanatical Zionist mind you, but one who is nonetheless one hundred percent certain of his beliefs as he goes about his daily life raising, along with his wife, three sons, a dog and two birds.

This other David Kersh, my Zionist double, stayed behind in Lima when my family moved to the United States. I was 9 or 10 (sometimes it is 9, other times it is 10). He continued with his studies at the Jewish School, el Colegio Leon Pinelo, and lived out his adolescence in a close-knit, warm, affluent and conservative Jewish community in the midst of a country marked by extreme poverty; it was a happy-go-lucky adolescence that included frequent visits with his buddies (meaning my friends) to non-Jewish prostitutes and world-renowned Chinese restaurants. Eventually, he moved to Israel, where I believe he studied mechanical or chemical engineering, or something practical like that. Meanwhile, the other David Kersh (me) went through the typical junior high, high school and college experience in Southern California, in a world more multi-cultural, less well-defined and, lest I forget, blessed by an American God.

While my Zionist double was having non-Jewish Peruvian sex, eating excellent Chinese food, and then doing his military service in Israel and hanging out at the disco in Tel Aviv or Haifa, I was having my share of teenage and college fun and angst, American style (girls breaking my sensitive heart; Reagan-Bush 1 malaise). Like him, I got married and have three sons, a dog and two birds; unlike him, though, my tribal affiliation with Israel is more tenuous and I have striven to be self-critical and morally consistent, and aim to view Israel with unbiased clear eyes. Which can be difficult and get you into problems.

Here in the U.S., there is a constant barrage of statements, resolutions, words, silences, articles, actions, speeches coming from our political class, our religious organizations, the media, our community leaders whose resulting consequence is to send the message that it is not okay to be honest and critical about Israel's actions. "Hey, don't you dare do it!" There is a complex machinery at work that hinders debate and makes talking about Israel openly a taboo. If you question what Israel does or criticize too hard or seek to treat Israel with the same moral compass as other countries chances are you will be labeled an anti-Semite, a self-hating Jew and be ostracized. In my case, I am ashamed to say I have internalized the censor to the point that in the instances where Israel has been in the wrong and there was a need to speak out loudly and clearly, I have kept my mouth shut and been a moral wimp. What can I say, my Zionist double, with his conscience clear and his fixed identity got the better deal of the two.

As so happens in the doppelgänger tradition, one of the two is bound to track down the other. I imagine that it is him, my Zionist double, who one day, via Facebook, discovers of my existence. For my part, given my wayward ways and impractical imagination, I have always sensed he was out there somewhere, so I am not as surprised about this. Most likely, the final fateful encounter is bound to take place in the dark alley near my house as I am returning from getting In and Out burgers for the kids; as I sneak my hand in the white bag to grab some fries, we make eye contact: though he is wearing contact lenses, and his hair is a bit longer than mine, the resemblance between us is unmistakable.