Editor's Notes: Is Benny Gantz the messiah of Israel’s political system?

Or maybe he is just presenting himself as the non-politician candidate whose clean slate lets him stand out among the professional politicians with whom the public is already familiar.

Former IDF chief-of-staff Benny Gantz, December 26th, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former IDF chief-of-staff Benny Gantz, December 26th, 2018
It is understandable that a people fantasizing and praying for thousands of years for a messiah to come and save them would also search for a messiah to redeem their political system. Otherwise, there is very little logic why former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s new party would be polling double digits.
Don’t get me wrong. Gantz is just as qualified – possibly even more – than many of the 120 people who currently call themselves Members of Knesset. The issue is that no one knows what he believes about anything. He doesn’t speak.
Does he support a two-state solution to end the Palestinian conflict, or something else? Is he a capitalist who believes in a free-market economy? Does he want to raise taxes? How is he going to improve the health system? And what does he plan to do to upgrade infrastructure and our children’s schools?
In short: Benny, who are you?
I understand why Gantz is quiet. For now, his popularity stems from simply being the outsider and playing the messiah card. He wants to present himself as the non-politician candidate whose clean slate lets him stand out among the professional politicians with whom the public is already familiar. Moreover, he knows the moment he speaks he will lose votes, so by not revealing exactly who he is and what he stands for, Gantz is able to gain support from across the spectrum – the Right, the Center and the Left. The moment he says something revealing about policy, people will have to pick a side.
The question is, what does his temporary popularity say about Israel? What does it mean when a recent poll questioning suitability to serve as prime minister showed that Gantz is just a drop behind Benjamin Netanyahu?
I believe it highlights two important features about life in Israel. The first is that the public primarily considers matters of security when casting its votes. Traditionally, this has played to Netanyahu’s favor because when the debate is about security, he usually comes out on top. The fact that a former chief of staff is polling so high shows Israelis are concerned about matters of security, whether it is Iran’s presence in Syria or Hamas’s build-up in the Gaza Strip.
It also shows that Israelis are not really voting because of policy. They’re not looking at party platforms and what candidates really say about issues, which should be among the nation’s core concerns: religion and state, the recent announcement of an economic slowdown, or the growing divide between those who have in this country and those who don’t. Sadly, it seems people simply don’t care anymore – or they have just given up on the possibility that anything will really ever change.
With that as the reality, no wonder people prefer to fantasize about a political messiah.
ON MONDAY, my daughter Miki returned home. She spent the last eight months in the United States, where she was treated for a rare bone cancer discovered almost exactly a year ago. It was January 1, 2018, when I took her to the MRI where her tumor was discovered, and she completed what will hopefully remain her last planned day of treatment on January 5, 2019.
When we first met with her medical team in Israel, they told us that in a good scenario we should prepare for 12 months of a medical roller coaster. Little did we know what that meant. Between chemotherapy, radiation, a massive surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering – which still blows my mind that it is even possible – Miki has been through an ordeal that is unimaginable to most of us.
Her journey is not completely over. But for now, she is in a good place and we are hopeful she will continue to get better and ultimately win. That’s it: to simply win.
When Miki first got sick last January, I shared her story with you. My family was entering uncharted territory, and many of you wrote or called. Still today, a year later, I receive emails from many Jerusalem Post readers asking about Miki, and sharing that they continue to pray for her. Even though many of the letters continue with some criticism about the paper or a complaint about something I had written, I cherish them all. Seriously.
My wife, Chaya, and I believe in the power of prayer and positive energy. We thank you for keeping Miki in your thoughts and prayers throughout this difficult period in our lives, and have no doubt it contributed to getting her where she is today.
More than anything, this has been a humbling experience. In life, many of us are used to being able to deal on our own with the challenges we face. Not in this case. When a child becomes sick with a disease like this, there is little you can do. Almost everything is out of your hands. You can work to ensure the child gets the best care available and is as comfortable as possible. But even the doctors don’t know for certain if what they are doing will work. Each disease has its survival rate based on multiple factors. The most you can hope for is that your loved one is given the best chance possible.
I have also been humbled by the acts of kindness that have been showered on my family from organizations and random people. There was the family that owns a hotel in New York City and opened its doors to us, after hearing we had landed in the US and that Miki needed to be near the hospital while we got our bearings; there was the family that gave us a house for two months in Highland Park, New Jersey, so Miki could be close to the proton-beam radiation center; and the family that went above and beyond and gave us a place to stay in Manhattan for six months so Miki could be close to where she had to be almost every morning for chemotherapy.
There was the group that ran the New York City Marathon in Miki’s honor while raising money for her hospital and the woman who drove into the city from Long Island on Fridays to bring us food for Shabbat. There was the art teacher who came once a week to spend a few hours painting with Miki and the couple who opened their vacation home in upstate New York so we could get an occasional breath of fresh air. There were countless volunteers who came to the hospital, many just to bring a quick snack, smile or kind word.
There were amazing organizations like Chai Lifeline, Ohr Meir and Rachashei Lev that went above and beyond to make sure Miki was always smiling. You should never have to meet these organizations, but if you do, know that they are staffed by angels.
Almost all of these people I did not know before. I had never met them and never heard of them. They didn’t help us because of who we were; they did what they did because that is what they do. These are people, I learned, who don’t live for themselves but for others. They are only satisfied when they know you have what you need. You come before them.
I’m not mentioning these individuals by name because they wouldn’t want me to. They are not looking for publicity or fame. They do what they do because they believe their mission in life is to help other people. They showed me a new level of good in this world and that even in challenging times, there are moments of light and hope.
I didn’t need to look for a messiah. These people showed me what kindness can do.
Thank you.