Supporters of the center-left Zionist Union party during a campaign stop in the southern city of Ashdod.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Aside from Independence Day, Election Day is one of those few times on the Israeli calendar where almost the entire country is at leisure with 24 hours at their disposal.
Voting takes 15-20 minutes tops, and then the rest of the day is an orgy of picnics, hikes, barbecues and beaches. It is a grand way to celebrate democracy and the freedom it affords.
We were out in droves on a beautiful election day, enjoying the weather and the rare unencumbered day off. And, God knows, we needed a day where we give ourselves a little pat on the back and say, “Yeah, things look bleak, there are so many things wrong with this country and who knows what tomorrow is going to bring, but hey, we’re still standing.
And despite the problems, our country has accomplished so much and it is still a pretty grand place to live.”
Of course, according to the polls leading up to Election Day, we just don’t know who we want to lead the country – and we probably will not have received a clear-cut answer Tuesday night either. But that doesn’t subtract from the special feeling that Election Day brings with it whether you’re a Tel Aviv Meretz voter or a Judean and Samarian Bayit Yehudi voter.
Elections, like sporting events, present one of the only situations we encounter in our daily lives in which the outcome is not known. The death and taxes joke aside, there is something about Election Day that conjures up a childlike sense of wonder, hope and excitement – that intoxicating blend of anticipation and giddiness where, for a finite amount of time, the mind is free to think that anything is possible.
Even in this most uninspiring of campaigns, unless you’re one of the jaded apathetic citizens who are going to stay away from the polling stations, voting is a reaffirmation of belief in that lofty ideal that everyone has a say.
Of course, at 10:01 p.m. when the polls closed, and the results of the exit polls appeared, those lofty ideals likely gave way to adult realism. Regardless of the numbers flashing on the TV super infographics, it’s clear, if it wasn’t already, that the results pointing toward either Benjamin Netanyahu or Isaac Herzog forming the next government – will not provide a panacea to the nation’s ills. We will still face oppressively high prices, existential threats and a widening social and political schism.
But Tuesday, oh Tuesday, everything was fresh and wideopen in expectations. At the Beit Zayit reservoir, families hiked, teens trotted on horses... and everyone ate. As it should be. We should rejoice living in this robust democracy – this only Jewish state in the world – and we should cherish the opportunity it’s provided to all its citizens.
But when we wake up on Wednesday, with the burnt charcoal aroma still wafting in the air, we had better get back down to Earth quickly. The challenges facing Israel are only growing and the leaders we elected will not be able to face them alone.
Celebrating democracy only on Election Day is not enough.
And it really has nothing to do with picnics and barbecues.