Voting always brings with it an excitement – the ability to influence your country and effect change. It is a true privilege. And while Tuesday’s vote is the fourth in just two years, that excitement was still there, at least for me.
Nevertheless, our work is still set out for us. To think that we will wake up later this week with the final results and everything will be okay is naïve and foolish. Elections are not a medicine. They are only the potential beginning of a much-needed national healing.
No matter the result, the division that has been so rampant in recent months will not just go away.
If Benjamin Netanyahu wins, for example, there will be a sizeable portion of Israel that will be elated that their leader has finally succeeded in establishing a right-wing government. But another sizeable portion of Israel will wallow in despair, demoralized that after four elections they still could not bring him down.
And if Netanyahu loses, those in his camp will be the ones wallowing, while those in the anti-Likud camp will celebrate. Such is politics.
But no matter who wins, no matter who forms the next government – if one is even formed – Israel will not suddenly wake up a different country. That will require work and a true national reckoning.
The last two years of political deadlock shows us that we are divided as a people, and we should not fool ourselves into believing that a change at the top will suddenly make all of that go away.
At the same time, we also should not be confident that if the man at the top finally succeeds in forming a stable government, everything will be okay. The division will remain and the challenges will remain, until we, the people, sincerely confront them.
We don’t need politicians to teach us how to speak to one another; we should be teaching them. We don’t need politicians to tell us which issues we should care about; we should be telling them. And we don’t need politicians to show us to how be more courteous to our fellow citizens; it is our job to show them.
For real change to come – no matter who is ultimately chosen as Israel’s prime minister – it is incumbent upon each and every citizen in Israel to change her or his own conduct, to speak differently to their neighbors and political opponents, and to show compassion to those among us who are less fortunate.
If the public wants civil marriage in Israel it has to demand it; if the public wants something to change with the Palestinians it has to fight for it; and if the public wants education reforms it has to constantly talk about it and until the change is made.
If left to their own devices, our politicians will continue doing what they have done best these past few years: not talking about the ideas, the vision and the ideology that we the people are thirsty for, but rather focused on ensuring their political survival while fighting with one another about whom they will sit with and whom they won’t.
Fixing our society will take time, and the work will be tough. But we can do it. After all, we are voting in our fourth election in less than two years.