Beyond election tribes and tribulations -opinion

As a result of the endless election cycle in Israel, we have seen an increase in tension between different groups and the strengthening of the walls that separate them.

 VOTING TAKES place on Election Day, last week (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
VOTING TAKES place on Election Day, last week
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

Those who follow political events in both the United States and Israel have been blessed or cursed this month with not one but two sets of elections: Israeli parliamentary elections and US midterm elections.

In Israel, we are supposed to, in theory, experience a short period of intense election campaigns followed by a few years of respite. Unfortunately, the political situation in Israel has brought us nearly four years of seemingly nonstop election cycles.

In one of the recent Israeli election cycles, I attended an American Jewish conference where a comparison was made between election patterns in Israel and in the US.

I listened to one of the scholars on a panel present a thesis that in Israel, election choices are based on foreign affairs and security, while in the US they are based on economics. This is a well-known theory, but in my opinion, it is far from the truth.

In most cases, people actually vote based on their identity. In the US, this is visibly clear with red states and blue states, or red and blue districts, etc. In other words, tell me where you are from and your family background and I can likely guess who you voted for in the last election.

Here in Israel, as well, most of us vote according to our tribe, which usually falls along Jewish religious lines: are we religious or secular, traditional or ultra-Orthodox – not to mention the question of whether one is Jewish or Arab.

This probably has a greater influence on our voting choices than any of the important issues raised by the expert panelist at the conference.

As a result of the endless election cycle in Israel, we have seen an increase in tension between different groups and the strengthening of the walls that separate them.

The competition between the parties and the campaigns built on the basic feelings of fear of the other, the desire to protect the borders of the tribe, encourage and increase this phenomenon, and plant in our consciousness a zero-sum game in which any profit the other makes will necessarily come at a cost to ourselves.

Abraham is commanded to leave the tribe

And yet, when we look at last week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, we see that it begins with the words, “And the Lord said to Abram, go forth from your country and from your birthplace and from your father’s house...” (Genesis 18:1).Abraham is commanded to leave the tribe, homeland, heritage, familiar landscape and the human environment and language in which he was raised.

He is also commanded to leave his father’s house, his family and the people closest to him who have shaped and influenced him.

As soon as Abraham sets out on this journey, he encounters many different nations. Abraham’s journey symbolizes the beginning of a Jewish journey that spans generations. A journey that will wander between all the countries and peoples of the world for thousands of years, cross countless borders, speak dozens of languages, and influence and be influenced by hundreds of cultures.

There is so much beauty in this Jewish journey, like a stream that flows and collects with it souvenirs from so many landforms and constantly changes direction and reshapes the land. This month, we also mark 27 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

We recall the journey he made for the sake of peace, as well as the disastrous consequences that result when we let hatred fester between the tribes of Israel.

This November, as we recall Abraham’s journey and the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, and as we cope with various elections and their aftermath, I invite us to engage in the practice of post-election healing in the spirit of Abraham and Rabin.

Let’s step outside of our bubbles and meet the communities around us with openness, understanding and recognition that there is room for many opinions and beliefs. Then, maybe, we can find some harmony among our tribes.

The writer is the CEO of BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change.