Hearing a political leader, in English

A new solution for new immigrant voters.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid votes, March 17, 2015 (photo credit: PR)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid votes, March 17, 2015
(photo credit: PR)
An unforgettable moment for a new immigrant is voting in his or her first election. Because elections in Israel occur once every two to three years, new immigrants get to exercise their civic duty relatively soon after arriving.
The problem is that this period is focused on setting up new lives in a new country, and thus they have little time for delving into Israeli politics, especially given the language barrier.
Then an election comes – usually quite suddenly – and the new voter in the election booth is faced with a choice from an array of little pieces of paper with letters representing more than 40 political parties. It is overwhelming.
I will never forget my first election in March 2006, less than two years after moving to Israel. I read The Jerusalem Post quite regularly, but didn’t have the time to understand all of the nuances and differences between the parties. I was confused and unsure when it came time to cast my ballot.
As a result of that experience, I decided to become more educated. Whenever I saw that a politician was speaking in English – which didn’t happen very often – I tried to go listen. I wanted to hear different sides of the political equation, to know where parties wanted to take our country. I looked for articles and columns written in English by the country’s leaders, to try to understand the issues and where they stood on those subjects. And I was much better prepared for my second Israeli election, which came three years later.
But the involvement of English-speaking olim should not be limited to voting on Election Day. I believe that all of us immigrants bring a fresh Zionism and enthusiasm for making Israel better than it already is, which can contribute immensely to the political process. So I recommend to English-speaking olim to go through the process of studying the various parties, come to a well-researched and thought-out decision regarding whom they support, and get involved.
Every party is looking for ways to reach new segments of the population, and you can contribute with your English skills as well as your passion for Israel. Joining the local branch of a party is like joining a family – aside from the positive influence you can have on the party and its efforts to improve Israel, it is an incredible way to become more integrated into society.
Both lessons – what we as English speakers can contribute to the political process, and how our getting involved helps us integrate into society – were taught to me when events in my city of Beit Shemesh led me to jump into the political world. My relationship with Yair Lapid and his new Yesh Atid party began as I looked around for a party that spoke to my values, and held out a vision for Israel’s future similar to my own.
I joined the party only after hearing Yair speak many times, and after arranging a private meeting with him when I was able to ask all of my questions and develop a personal connection with him.
That exploration process, which I recommend to all English-speaking olim, led me to hearing and even meeting great people and leaders from many parties.
I was forced to speak my then-inadequate Hebrew, as I found myself in audiences and in meetings with people who were foreign to me. Even upon joining Yesh Atid I remained silent at first, but slowly I developed the courage to have a voice. I hope that all immigrants – no matter where you are on the political spectrum – will do so as well.
It is in this spirit that I invite all of you to have the same opportunity that I had: to hear Yair Lapid speak in English, and answer your questions. I hope you will have the opportunity to hear from leaders from all parties.
In the meantime, this opportunity is available to you in two-and-a-half weeks. Why not take advantage and begin your own exploration directly, without the information being filtered by the press or social media.
Come and hear for yourself. I hope that after you do your own research, you will get involved with whatever party speaks to your values and your vision for the future of Israel.
Dov Lipman was an MK in the 19th Knesset for Yesh Atid.
Lapid is holding an English-language town hall meeting in Jerusalem at 8 p.m. on September 6 at the Bible Lands Museum. Please email english@yeshatid.org.il in order to register for the event, since space is limited and RSVP is required.