Voting Day and time to hit the polling place. Shower? Check. Dog walked? Check. Breakfast, workout, daughter up and dressed? Check, not yet, check. Fine. Let’s go make history.
Whatever your morning routine, surely everyone faced with voting for the fifth time must have considered for the fifth time how our beloved little country would survive such a big decision for the fifth time.
And so, as I loaded my daughter into the back seat of the car – me, an obviously black, overtly Jewish, proudly gay father, with friends across all streams of Judaism and Israeli society, once considered a stranger by many and strange by a few, I wondered if we were becoming victims of fear.
When former president Donald Trump was elected, I posed what seemed a naive question to those around me who were still in shock: What’s the worst that can happen? Some replied, “War, famine, poverty!” I dismissed answers like this then, as I dismiss them now. So then, after this momentous vote, I ask, again: What is the worst that can happen?
Some reply is loss of freedom, rollback of rights for the vulnerable, deportation of the oppressed and decriminalization of government corruption. Others say that had they not won, there would be no affirmation of Jewish identity or Zionism, nor further guarding of Torah. They say that leaders must be protected from what is perceived as vicious inquiry and prosecution. This is serious stuff and a lot to be considered.
But then, if our concerns and fears signal impending doom, rather than being simply a sign that we need some assistance, what is the point of hope or even prayer? How does one keep the worst from happening? Here are some ideas.
- Put down our phones and slowly back away from our computers. Go find someone of an opposing persuasion and ask exactly what was their hope for the vote. This is real social media. Let’s not ask the person just next to us ideologically, that’s too easy. I suggest asking the person that frightens us the most. Make the conversation cringeworthy. That’s how we really start learning from each other.
- Try to see the supposed antagonist, as one sees one’s self. Someone we really need. What if the person we think is an enemy shared valid fears of us? What if we are part of the problem?
- Listen. Do not simply wait for a chance to have a say. Instead, listen like a person who has no idea how this is going to work out but still hopes to find a solution rather than agreement. Here, one should pause if one cannot see the value and the difference between the two.
- Try imagining the next prime minister and a coalition willing to do what is best for everyone, within reason. This may seem trivial but it isn’t. For the secularist, have you ever heard of a successful company with a negative vision statement? For the Torah scholar, do we not also see Hashem as having thought and then spoke our world into being? We can do the same. And just as it was in the beginning, there was no day without night and perhaps there can be no left without a right. It’s called balance.
IMAGINE THAT: Balance. A place to begin again. Again.
What if then we only accepted real debate from leaders, rather than, (sigh) dialogue? This is coming from a writer living in a community with neighbors who are very different from himself but with whom is shared an amazing present and yes, a bright future, as well. What was just done by our voting was unimaginable 80 years ago. And though many were frustrated by the last outcome that prompted this historic vote, rather than storm the Knesset in some ill-conceived insurrection, instead we stormed our polling places and tried again.
That’s what it means to be Am Segula (treasured nation): More treasured than chosen, we are capable of surviving anything, including dispute and debate. We know historically that our greatest disagreements have often laid the groundwork for our greatest achievements. Torah and time attest to this fact. For the Left, this is a time to learn from the Right, who finally got their acts together and worked together, even in the face of disagreement. For the Right, this is a time to show the Left and the rest of the world that the right hand of God is not the hand of gevura (harsh judgment), rather it is the hand of hessed (love and power in balance).
If we can do this, it can be a moment when wolves turn to lambs and say, “What the hell? Let’s try it.” After all, it doesn’t say that the wolf needs to become the lamb, just be willing to share space with the lamb without threatening the lamb. And for the lamb giving space to the improbable is a change of heart from even the worst enemy.
So what’s the worst that can happen? It may be naive to still hope for a world where coalitions are broken in favor of mutual cooperation and trust. I would suspect that for the broken, entrenched, and those defined by their disputes a world like this is exactly the worse thing that can happen.
The author is a writer, communications analyst and business coach from New York, now residing permanently in Israel.