An Anglo vision for Israel's third elections

By sheer weight of numbers, the English-speaking community should be seen as vital for any political party.

Israel elections:time to vote. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel elections:time to vote.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a few days, Israelis will once again be returning to the polls for the third time in under a year.
As in all recent elections, the different political parties have identified potential communities and constituencies to reach out to in order to gather the necessary crucial votes.
By sheer weight of numbers, the English-speaking community should be seen as vital for any political party.
According to the number of votes for each Knesset seat from the September elections, Anglo citizens could translate their votes into as many as 14 seats, more than every Israeli political party outside of Likud and Blue and White.
Many in the past from our community have thought about how to translate this electoral potential into political power, from placing English-speakers on party lists to using “entry-ism” politics, having large numbers of Anglos sign up for a party which holds primaries.
So far, none of these have been overly successful. Perhaps it is time to focus more on the issues rather than gaining political power or a foothold in a particular party.
Over the last year, we have met with many members, leaders and opinion-shapers from the English-speaking community around the country to try to understand what unites our community and how we can use our experiences and capabilities to make improvements to Israeli society.
How can we, as Anglos, best affect change, development and progress, and above all, contribute to our beloved homeland?
The outcome of these in-depth conversations is a document that represents an attempt to find some unifying positions which represent English-speaking Israelis and issues that this community would like to further develop.
This document is a work in progress and requires further input from English-speaking Israelis in order to become the first representative set of principles that will unite this community. Whether Left, Right or center, religious, traditional or secular, this forms the basis for an Anglo vision to be presented to politicians, political parties, NGOs, opinion-shapers and the wider general public.
These are the draft principles of the Anglo vision:
1. Sundays off – In the debate about whether there should be a Sunday off in Israel, many have argued for or against, but few have mentioned a middle ground. In the US, there are a series of public holidays, like Memorial Day and Labor Day. In the UK, there are some eight bank holidays throughout the calendar year, which are paid days off. These days are held on Mondays, leaving a longer weekend.
The State of Israel could assign six to eight extra (paid) Sundays off a year so Israelis can enjoy a series of longer weekends without it being a burden on the economy.
2. More representation, greater accountability – In most of the English-speaking world, the political systems are based on representative democracy, the principle of elected officials representing a particular group of people, usually geographically based, for greater representation and accountability.
The State of Israel could adopt a mixed-member proportional representation electoral system, used in countries such as Germany and New Zealand. This would mean that the voter would cast two ballots: one for a representative for a single-seat constituency, and another for a party list. The numbers are then adjusted to ensure a particular party receives the number of seats proportionate to its national tally.
3. ALIYAH AS a national priority – The State of Israel was built on the ingathering of the exiles, and each aliyah brought with it special capabilities. The English-speaking Jewish world constitutes well over 80% of the total Jewish Diaspora. With around 60% assimilation rates in these communities, immigration should be seen as an issue of national priority for Israel, Zionism and the Jewish future. There should be a refocus on these communities to ensure we reach 10,000 immigrants from English-speaking countries each year by 2030, more than doubling its current rate.
4. Career training/professional integration for new immigrants – Many olim, especially from English-speaking countries, have challenges in the Israeli job market upon arrival. This also scares away many prospective and potential immigrants. Frequently, professional satisfaction is the key element of a successful integration and absorption, especially for those with families.
Modeled on the work of organizations like Gvahim, the Israeli government should create professional training centers. These would redesign a new immigrant’s professional profile and behavior to enable smooth access to the Israeli work market and ensure professional realization and fulfillment of career goals and aspirations. It would also build direct bridges between the already established career path from the country of origin and its natural continuation into Israel.
5. Fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – Olim from English-speaking countries have faced anti-Israel hostility or know people who have. They are great consumers of debates and conversations about Israel whether in traditional or social media. They also know that unlike the military, economic and terrorist wars that Israel has faced, the war of BDS and delegitimization’s frontlines are on university campuses, in the political and legal arenas, and throughout the public space in the Diaspora. Thus, English-speaking Israelis can become an important resource for the relevant governmental agencies or NGOs dealing with BDS and delegitimization. Harnessing their understanding and relationships to help Israel fight this battle can become a winning formula.
6. Absorption counseling – Moving to a new country with a new language and culture, and away from friends and families can be emotionally and psychologically straining. Many immigrants need help in their native language during the process of their absorption. As part of the absorption package, English-speaking olim should have access to counseling in English, on a needs/means basis, through their kupat cholim provider for the first two to three years of their aliyah. There should be a full time English-speaking counselor/therapist/psychologist in each of the top 12 most Anglo-populated cities and towns.
There are of course many other issues, like better service delivery, lower car taxes and stronger consumer rights, which we have heard from many Anglos as items they feel are vital for our nation.
We sincerely hope that the Anglo Vision will be interactive and collaborative. This bottom-up approach can become a jumping-off point toward some type of consensus among English-speaking Israelis that can best represent our hopes and desires to affect the change we would like to see.
The writer is founder of the Anglo Vision and founder and dean of The Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development, an organization dedicated to building Israeli society one community at a time by successfully bringing Diaspora models of community-building to Israel. To contact us