Israel, elect someone who commands respect, love like Queen Elizabeth - opinion

Queen Elizabeth succeeded in evoking both of these emotions from her subjects. There was deep reverence for her and for the crown she wore.

 TRIBUTES TO Queen Elizabeth II at Green Park, London, Sept. 23.  (photo credit: Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters)
TRIBUTES TO Queen Elizabeth II at Green Park, London, Sept. 23.
(photo credit: Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters)

I’m writing this column after watching the funeral of Queen Elizabeth. The numbers alone are staggering. She served 70 years (an entire lifetime, according to Psalm 144), with a reign that spanned 14 American presidents, from Harry Truman to Joe Biden, all of whom she personally met – with the exception of Lyndon Johnson, who somehow missed the cut – as well as 15 British prime ministers. She was the monarch of 15 Commonwealth states, with a combined population of 150 million people. 

Though her lifespan was approaching the century mark, her passing engendered genuine shock and sadness across the globe. Perhaps because she was active until the very end – appointing Liz Truss as PM shortly before her death – her loyal subjects thought she would carry on forever.

The queen’s funeral most likely was the most watched in history, as modern communication allowed as many as two billion people to tune in. I heard no word of reproach or regret that she was the monarch for all these years; not a single comment was voiced that perhaps she had overstayed her welcome in Buckingham and Windsor palaces. 

Instead, there was an outpouring of genuine love and respect from world leaders, as well as the average man or woman.

 QUEEN ELIZABETH, two days before her passing, welcomes Liz Truss to Balmoral Castle, inviting her to become prime minister and form a government.  (credit: Jane Barlow/Reuters) QUEEN ELIZABETH, two days before her passing, welcomes Liz Truss to Balmoral Castle, inviting her to become prime minister and form a government. (credit: Jane Barlow/Reuters)

Elizabeth connected to virtually every British citizen on one level or another.

During the long and laborious funeral, numerous commentators spoke about the queen’s unique success. The ceremony was starkly different from our own Jewish custom, which mandates that, in a dignified yet simple service, the body be returned as quickly and modestly as possible to the dust from whence it came. 

One court observer opined that the reason her rule was so seamless and uninterrupted was that she steadfastly avoided any type of controversy that might have cast the monarchy in a negative light. 

On those occasions when scandal did surface, such as the extramarital affairs of Charles and Princess Diana that accompanied their notorious breakup, and Prince Andrew’s sexual improprieties (there’s a British euphemism if ever there was one!), the queen was visibly shaken and acted rapidly to restore tranquility.

I AM STRUCK by the vivid contrast between the queen and our own political leaders. She had wide respect from every element of the UK’s diverse population; she was the “great equalizer” who united the disparate segments of society and instilled pride in the nation. 

Who in Israel can hold as much unity as Queen Elizabeth did in the UK?

Which of our present politicians can compliment themselves on appealing to the nation at large, as opposed to particular interest groups or ethnic communities? Who in the Knesset commands homage from a sizeable majority of the Israeli population? The fact that we are electorally split almost exactly 50-50 tells you just how far we are from consensus and unity.

As I watched the gargantuan line waiting for almost three full days to pay their last respects to their monarch – moving patiently, without any disruptions, arguments, rancor or jumping the line – I asked myself: “Why could this scene not happen right here in Israel, even before the Messiah comes?!”

Throughout the High Holy Days, we appeal to the Almighty as “Our Father (or parent), Our King (or sovereign).” These are the two essential personas of God. On the one hand, the Almighty is a loving parent who, like any good parent, cares most about his children, going to any extent to see us reach our fullest potential and live a meaningful life. Although we may stray and “misbehave,” this mode of God is ever-ready to forgive and steer us in the right direction.

At the same time, the King of Kings is an absolute ruler, with power over life and death. Discipline, justice and obedience to the law – all for the welfare of the larger community, as well as the individual – are the posture the Creator takes in order to keep His subjects in line and society functioning as it should. 

In this model, reward and punishment set the tone, as each of us will be held strictly accountable for our actions, enjoying the benefits of our good behavior while suffering the repercussions of our disobedience.

This duality of God corresponds to the two types of repentance that we can choose to perform – on any day of the year, but most intensely from the first of Elul until Hoshana Raba at the conclusion of Sukkot. We can choose to act out of fear, or better, awe, wishing to avoid the harmful consequences that ultimately and invariably result from our sinful behavior.

Or we can act purely out of love as we willingly – even passionately – strive to connect to our Creator for no other reason than it brings us joy and makes our soul feel good. Clearly, this is a much more elevated condition.

QUEEN ELIZABETH succeeded in evoking both of these emotions from her subjects. There was deep reverence for her and for the crown she wore. The entire British world symbolically curtsied before her, and no one would even dream of acting discourteously in her presence or coming too close to her without her express permission.

At the same time, there was love. Deep love, a love that brought millions to tears as they contemplated losing their earthly connection to her, as a lifelong attachment was now severed. As one exhausted woman from Australia proclaimed, after waiting days in line in London, “I love my queen; I would go anywhere to show my devotion to her.”

We are approaching yet another election here in Israel and, once again, we are called upon to make a momentous choice. The party and candidate we elect will, in a very real sense, represent not just us Israelis but the entire Jewish world. And while there are innumerable considerations as to who deserves our precious vote and support, I would suggest that we ask ourselves one essential question:

Who among the candidates commands our awe and respect, yet at the same time elicits our love? 

The writer is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana. [email protected]