Jewish spiritual identity and idealized notions of the Jewish homeland have been part of American identity dating back 400 years, said Michael Oren.

In a lecture to the Northeastern community this past spring, the Israeli ambassador to the United States suggested that the linkage provided a foundation for Israel’s unique relationship with America.

The Puritans in the 17th century referred to Old Testament texts in their hope that the new American colonies could provide the same sort of refuge Israel was for the freed slaves of Egypt, Oren explained.

“In the Old Testament, Puritans found a god who… made promises to free them from exile and restore the promised land,” he said. “In turn, Puritans gave Hebrew names to many towns and cities and made Hebrew a required language at universities.”

A scholar who has held fellowships at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University, Oren said the bond between the two nations remains strong today. Even disagreements on major foreign-policy issues cannot sunder the relationship, he said.