As an educator of more than 30 years, the upcoming election should provide the perfect opportunity to engage my students on subjects such as democracy, human rights, nation-state, the welfare state, societal divides, leadership and minorities. Ordinarily, these issues are relevant and important. They go to the very heart of who we are. They touch and effect all of our lives. Yet neither I nor my students are interested. They are sick and tired of politics. And so am I!
Growing up, an election was a special event, one to be cherished and respected. It brought palpable excitement. It occurred once every four of five years; twice a decade, like the Olympics or the World Cup. It had meaning, importance, hope. If you supported the ruling party, it forced them to reenergize their agenda after several years in power. If you supported the opposition party, it gave you a sense of hope and opportunity.
I now have a 20-year-old son who by March 2021 will have voted four times. He’s an intelligent and informed young man. Two years ago, preparing for his first visit to the polling station, he researched the party platforms and made an informed decision. Politics interested him. Yet now it is just a joke to him, and that is a travesty.
How has it come to this?
Over the last two years, what were once considered core, humanistic values have been totally eradicated and ground to dust. I am not referring to democracy or human rights, but to values such as truth, honesty, trust and promise. I was recently asked how we should approach the topic of the elections with our students. Yet what is the point of discussing politics when our fundamental value system no longer exists?
It would be much easier to voice these concerns if I could criticize a particular section of the political system in Israel. Yet these alarm bells are ringing with regard to all politicians and all parties, the entire political spectrum: Jew and Arab, secular and religious, Left and Right – every single one is guilty as sin.
For the last two years, politicians have lied, cheated and covered up. They have based decisions on their own political and personal gain. They have claimed to support one agenda and made promises to their electorate, and then cynically performed U-turns and supported exactly that which they spent months criticizing and even demonizing. They have embraced those whom they despise both on public and personal levels, and they have abandoned their electorate who gained nothing but feelings of neglect and desertion. They have ripped hope from the hearts of their most ardent supporters in order to keep their own heads above water.
This is not a time to discuss peace, foreign workers, army conscription or even the pandemic. These are important issues that need solving. But they cannot be solved by people and parties that do not share the most basic values or a common language. The public discourse that has enveloped this country for the last two years needs to be ripped up. We need to start again. Rehashing the same subjects will not improve our society but will simply duplicate, or perhaps worsen that which has gone before.
Instead, we need to reexamine who we are, what matters to us, what our core values are and if and why they are important. Only after that conversation has occurred and those foundation stones re-laid can we begin to start healing a very fractured world.
The writer is principal at Ankori High School in Tel Aviv.