Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose; every way you look at it, you lose! (Simon and Garfunkel, 1968)
"Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose; every way you look at it, you lose!"Simon and Garfunkel, 1968
Diversity and democracy. These are the buzzwords that define the advantage of living in a free country that holds free elections. Surely we – unlike so many totalitarian states – are fortunate to have the privilege of choosing our own government. But, as Yiddish so succinctly puts it, has the kalla become tzu shayn? – is the bride too pretty? Do we now have such an overabundance of choices that our citizenry simply cannot make up its mind as to who will lead us?
We always prided ourselves in the belief that no one party could take control of our nation; indeed, there has never been an election in Israel when a single party was able to garner a majority of Knesset seats. There has always been the need to form a coalition of two or more parties, which served to widen the base of power and allow more citizens to be represented. But this system of government, alas, has a fatal flaw, which we somehow managed to avoid for 70 years, until it finally blew up in our faces.
And now, as we head into our fifth – and counting – election in just three years, with only Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid having been able to form a working government, and that for just one year, many are thinking that perhaps the American two-party system works a heck of a lot better. At least there, one candidate has to emerge the winner, and one party has to receive the mantle of leadership for at least four years. Our exorbitantly expensive election merry-go-round only gets dizzier and more divisive as we go through the motions time and time again.
I WAS approached recently by a friend, Simcha by name, who asked me the same question that pretty much everyone is asking: “Who should I vote for to finally break this logjam?”
“Who should I vote for to finally break this logjam?”Simcha
Now, I don’t know why anyone would think I have a better answer than anyone else, including the questioner. Maybe it’s a variation on Tevye’s classic observation, “When you’re a rabbi, they think you really know!” But I’m pretty much as frustrated as everyone else out there; fact is, if futility were indeed an exercise, we’d all be in great shape.
“When you’re a rabbi, they think you really know!”Tevye
Nevertheless, I’ll share with you a bit of my conversation with Simcha.
Answering questions on who to vote for in Israel's elections
Simcha: So, rabbi, please, give me some election direction. (Simcha is also good at rhymes.)
Me: Well, if you want to follow the crowd, the Likud seems to be the most popular party.
Simcha: I can’t vote for them! They acted despicably during the last election, screaming and yelling like hooligans and embarrassing all of us on international media. They made the Knesset look like kindergarten with the teacher out of the room. Plus, they made it crystal clear that all they cared about was bringing down the existing coalition, even saying that they would vote against coalition-sponsored bills to assist disabled IDF soldiers and abused women, as long as it helped get them into power.
Me: Well, maybe forget about the party and focus on its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Simcha: How can I vote for someone who is on trial for multiple crimes?! Why won’t he step down until his name is cleared? Had he done that, there would have been a stable government in power long ago. Why does he think only he can save Israel?!
Me: Well, he likes to think of himself as “Mr. Security,” doesn’t he?
Simcha: “Mr. Security”?! Isn’t he the one who unleashed more than 1,000 terrorists murderers on the Israeli public in the Schalit deal? And didn’t he fail to stop the “balloon terrorists” from destroying thousands of dunams of Israeli land? Oh, and didn’t he publicly say he supported a Palestinian state?! Is that supposed to make me feel more secure?
Me: Okay, then, maybe you should vote for a party with not one but two former commanders-in-chief of our military?
Simcha: I don’t know about that. Generally speaking, I don’t think any general is going to let another general tell him what to do. They may never agree; it could be a gantz mahloykes [a major argument]; oops, there’s that Yiddish again!
Me: Well, perhaps you’d be more comfortable with one of the religious parties – the haredim, for example.
Simcha: That won’t work for me. I have a child going into the army, and I can’t vote for any group that won’t support the IDF – if not by serving in the field, then at least by helping to run the synagogues or supervise the kashrut on the army bases, as the late rabbi of Ger suggested but was overruled. Why, some won’t even say the prayer asking for our soldiers to be safe!
Me: What about the Religious Zionists, then? They may be more to your liking.
Simcha: Well, one of their leaders said I shouldn’t be allowed to go to synagogue and pray if I supported the last prime minister. And the other one, the “son of a gvir” or something, seems a bit too divisive for my taste. He thinks that “deportment” means kicking people out rather than good behavior.
Me: I hear you, Simcha. So maybe you want to go to the other side of the spectrum, maybe Meretz is more to your liking.
Simcha: Do they believe that God gave us this land? Because that’s what I was taught since I was a child, and that’s even the reason I moved here in the first place. Besides, weren’t they the only [Jewish] party not to vote in favor of the bill taking action against the “Pay for Slay” policy of the Palestinians? I thought everyone would at least agree to that!
At this point, I must admit that I, too, was as thoroughly confused as Simcha. Though new to Israel, Simcha seemed to have done the homework and had some very good points.
So what could I do? I wished Simcha luck, and said that while I didn’t really answer the original question, I have faith in a Higher Power, and so I believe that, eventually, we will someday again be blessed with a person of high moral character, a lover of all our populace, who will unite, rather than divide, the nation and help us to reach even greater heights than we have already.
And then, God willing, we will truly be able to make a party that will be filled with simha and boast a new theme song:
“For united we stand, divided we fall; and if our backs should ever be against the wall, we’ll be together, together, you and I” (Brotherhood of Man, 1969).