It was in the early afternoon that the telephone rang. One of The Jerusalem Post's editors asked me: "Zvielli, you must have voted in almost every Israeli national election - can you tell us something about it?"
I was thrilled by the challenge. During my 60-year-long career at the Post, I got used to many such calls, even in the middle of the night. I dressed quickly to get on the unusually crowded and slow Egged bus, where I had a prompt chance to start sorting my thoughts and memories. I even got worried - how could I give a proper and honest account of all those past elections? I never missed a single one, national or municipal. This was truly an impossible assignment, unless I had a diary. And I didn't.
But slowly some direction did emerge. I recalled that I always voted according to certain patterns, and as far as I can remember, they repeated themselves and were hardly influenced by all those outside posters of even the most vivid election propaganda. I voted with what I firmly believed was my understanding of the needs of the hour. This doesn't mean that I wasn't influenced. But those impressions were built during the nation's prolonged struggle and not in the last month before the vote. And I think I was never disappointed, except for the last few elections, when the parties I voted for gained strength, and then disappeared, in particular in the election before last, when the elected leader didn't keep his promises and accepted the opposition's program.
But what were the patterns that had guided me for years? For me, a veteran soldier, a new immigrant and printing press worker, the War of Independence and the glorious, however difficult aftermath presented no problem - my decision was for the leadership. I voted, as far as I can remember, for Ben-Gurion, who led me in peace and war, even if I was hardly aware of all that Mapai socialism and red flag ballast, which I, a former Gulag prisoner, resented most and which he carried on his back. This leadership pattern led me to vote for the top man, and disregard anything else.
But then came Rafi, and certain leadership confusion. The big men quarrelled at the top, and this led to many disturbing questions. And the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War overshadowed all that trust that seemed to be so simple in the beginning. Slowly a new pattern emerged - that of seeking clean hands, for responsible accounting. The futile era of the Democratic Movement for a Change led to the Begin years - another promise and another climax of hope and disappointment, and to Shinui, another plea for a change. I think we all sought the return of those days when the respect for the working man and his paid taxes would succeed. This, my instincts told me, was what we all needed most.
Perhaps, I am, despite all these years that went by, a new, naive immigrant, looking for justice and power which only a good leader can provide. I voted early in the morning, I was the first, and I was almost alone. I voted for whom I believed to be a strong, unbending leader of the old cast, and I can only hope that I was right in my selection.