Pub politics

Yesh Atid English brings two MKs to engage with Anglos on their stomping grounds.

Jerusalem’s Anglo community fills Beer Bazaar (photo credit: LAURA BEN-DAVID)
Jerusalem’s Anglo community fills Beer Bazaar
(photo credit: LAURA BEN-DAVID)
On March 21, the Yesh Atid English group hosted a unique event at Beer Bazaar in Mahaneh Yehuda, titled “Politics in the Pub.” Featuring MKs Aliza Lavie and Elazar Stern, the evening was designed to enable Jerusalem’s Anglo community to learn more about the party, focusing on the topic of religion and state in particular.
The MKs spoke for about 10 minutes each, then attendees lined up and asked questions. “Politics in the Pub” was spearheaded by Michal Cababia, head of Yesh Atid English, and Becky Sebo, a Yesh Atid English team member.
“I organized the event along with Becky, who did a tremendous amount,” Cababia says. “She made flyers and gathered people. The event was amazing. We had 100 RSVPs and even more people showed up. The reaction and the entire dynamic was excellent. It just flowed. Great questions were asked. People come to these things because they don’t want just to hear an MK speak – they want to be able to ask questions and get real answers. We wanted to give Jerusalem Anglos that chance. They are a significant segment of the population with their own concerns that are important to them.”
The questions asked throughout the night reflected the theme of religion and state, with its many complexities.
There were questions about the future of civil unions, a subject that directly affects not only Israel’s same-sex population, but anyone wanting to get married outside of the rabbinate system. There were also questions about conversion, a hot-button issue.
“The matter of religion and state has a huge influence on Anglos,” Cababia says. “A lot of people make aliya and are recognized by the Jewish Agency as Jewish, but then not by the rabbinate. I think the implications of the rabbinate’s influence on their lives is a big issue.”
For Lavie, whose prior activities and legislation in the Knesset concern conversion, mikvaot, agunot, Shabbat, and Women of the Wall, the attendees’ questions were par for the course; relating to the issues she cares so deeply about.
“The event was a way to know what is going on,” Lavie states. “The quality of the questions was very high. They were not just political; these subjects affect and touch people’s lives.”
Lavie was invited by Yair Lapid to join Yesh Atid when the party was established. Lavie emphasizes that Lapid wanted secular and religious people working together, and that Yesh Atid is the only party where that occurs.
“I’m very happy to be part of this amazing party,” Lavie continues. “Events like ‘Politics in the Pub’ are our way of putting our agenda on the table. In my mind, there is no other future. We need to work and live together. We have to find the right balance. For me, a religious party is not an option. It’s not enough to create an agenda for your own tribe or your own people, we need to work for everybody.
“Unity – working together – is important. Coping with our enemies demands it and there is no other way to solve our problems. It takes time for that to happen. We are very young as a country. Every few years, there is a new aliya from another country and we need to work with those people. We need to give them tools. Now we have more experience with this, but it takes time to create understanding, to control the balance between the Jewish state and the democratic state. This is really the issue. It’s excellent that we had an opportunity to speak with people and give them the chance to ask questions on this subject.”
Rabbi Dov Lipman, who created Yesh Atid English, shares the sentiment that the event was not only an important space for asking open questions and a good way to engage potential future activists, but also a real reflection of what Yesh Atid represents as a party.
“I think the format of the event, where the MKs spoke briefly and then took the majority of the time to answer people’s questions is something that was wanted,” Lipman relates.
“People don’t like being spoken at. I got feedback that people really enjoyed the interaction and look forward to more events where they can line up and have their questions heard. Both MKs did a really good job. It’s not easy to do an event in English; it’s not their mother tongue. But they both were able to convey their points. I think anybody who was there got a clear idea of who they were and what Yesh Atid is.
“Another success from my point of view was the involvement of a young immigrant named Beck Sebo. She had this idea, brought it to us, and we ran with it. To empower someone who is new to the country and wants to get involved is also representative of Yesh Atid. That’s what we believe in.”
Lipman points out that the purpose of the night was not to have everyone agreeing with each other, in fact quite the opposite. Lavie also made mention of her hope that there were undecided voters in attendance, as well as those who had voted for other parties in the past, in order to create an atmosphere of honest discussion.
The audience, comprised of religious Zionists and secular men and women in their 20s and 30s, seemed at ease and eager.
“The MKs aren’t there to give the answers that people want to hear; they were truthful,” Lipman explains.
“Someone asked about Jews not being able to pray on the Temple Mount and the MKs responded with what we believe in. I don’t know if the person who asked the question was satisfied with the answer, but that’s also part of the process. In politics, people sometimes get the feeling that they are supposed to get the answer that they want to hear, but neither of the MKs were doing that; they were speaking their minds. If the person agreed, great. If they didn’t, that’s also fine.
“Yesh Atid is the pragmatic center,” Lipman says.
“Israelis are realizing that extremism on either side doesn’t help us as a people. I think a growing portion of people want to make progress in a sound and reasonable manner.”
Yesh Atid is currently the only party offering events of this nature to Jerusalem’s English-speaking community.
It has an active English Facebook page as well and the majority of its platform was translated into English. More events like Politics in the Pub are in the planning stage.