For those of you residing under a rock, Israel recently held elections, which essentially (although much more complicatedly) pitted the left-wing Isaac (Buji) Herzog against the right-wing current prime minister, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Yes, Buji vs. Bibi. It would be adorable if it wasn't such a proverbial bloodbath. Without getting too deep into it, it looks like Bibi will retain his position, by putting together the larger coalition of seats in the Knesset (Parliament). Side note: maybe I should be teaching civics and government to English-speaking olim? Have I missed my calling? But, I digress.
Now, unless you have never read my blog or met me, you would know that I am decidedly right-wing. Unapologetic, strongly, proudly and unwaveringly. Does that mean that I hate everyone with a different viewpoint? Not at all. I try to hear everyone's opinion, and see where they're coming from- sometimes I don't do that great but I do try. That said, the days leading up to the election and the two days since have left me in a state of perpetual social anxiety. Elections in the States are tense, for sure. I can remember waking up that first Wednesday in November in 2008 and 2012, hearing who won the presidency, having a few moments of intense sadness, and moving on. And yes, it was hard to hear the gloating, triumphant drumbeat of my extremely wonderful and passionate Democrat friends, but life goes on. In Israel, it is a whole different story. I never felt an election resonate so much within. I never felt true existential fear that my candidate might not win. I never worried that my vote might actually make a difference, because, honestly, in New York it really doesn't.
Leading up to the race I truly didn't know for whom I should vote. Should I vote with my brain, and go with Likud to avoid the doomsday scenario my fellow right-wingers feared? Or with my heart, for the candidate who stood for every I did. Honestly, until probably the day before, I was unsure and confused. But to lighten the mood, let me tell you about Election Day! First, Election Day is a national holiday in Israel. No one is allowed to make their employees work, and if they do, it's at twice their normal salary! This means that the whole country is off! Now, for a country where there is no Sunday (I mean, it exists, but it's a workday) and the only official days off are Jewish/nationalist holidays-this is huge! The cafes were packed, everyone was out and about, and the weather was magnificent! It was really fabulous. The electoral process, however, is a little funnier. First, you can only vote in the one polling location where you are registered. This means, if you lived in the Golan and moved to Jerusalem without changing your address legally- you have to head back up north to vote! Luckily, my polling place was a 3- minute walk. So I got all dressed up in blue and white (nails included) and I have to tell you, people appreciated that I went that extra mile. When you get to the polling place and sign in, you head to honestly the most low-tech voting booth outside of Botswana. It is basically an oak tag with a bunch of slips of paper, each with the symbol of the different parties. You select your chosen party's slip and put into an envelope, seal and drop into a cardboard box. I kid you not, it is like taking the Pepsi challenge or voting for Prom Queen. Anyway, I took the requisite "first time voting!" photo, and went on my way.
|Always color coordinate with your polling place|
If I was stressed out by the invective coming out of both sides before the election, I was honestly baffled by the sheer hatred coming from the left-wing after the polls closed and the votes were counted. The way people were referring to Bibi, it was as if Ahmadinejad had just been re-elected and the country was on a speeding train towards destruction. Essentially, very little had changed since the day before- same prime minister, a few shifts in seats (notably more Arabs in the Knesset, but somehow that hasn't made it to the papers) but essentially the same as Monday afternoon. But you wouldn't know it from my Facebook feed! In one short day, the peace process (which was apparently just on the brink of happening) was now dead forever, America was cutting all ties, the Arabs were going to riot in the streets, and Bibi was going to turn Israel into an extremist theocracy. I'm being tongue in cheek, but I have read some variation of each of these themes over the past two days. It was as if the left wing had never lost an election before! And they couldn't blame voter turnout (one of the highest ever), so they had to blame every other conceivable factor- fear, Iran, America, the media, the polls, the Orthodox- whatever worked, just as long as it wasn't the fact that, I dunno, maybe more people in this country wanted Bibi than Buji?
I kept getting a lot of people asking me (usually my liberal friends), "Are you so happy?" And my response is always the same. I am relieved. Is Bibi my ideological twin? No. Do I think he's the better option for a strong Israel? Definitely. Do I think Israel will be safer with him in charge? Yup. Do I think this will ruin our relationship with America? I certainly hope not! Would I rather an Obama that hates Israel under Bibi because he won't capitulate, rather than an Obama that loves Israel under Buji because he throws Jews out of Judea and Samaria? You bet! Do I think Bibi is better equipped to handle the Iranian threat? Of course! Does Bibi ever make a mistake in my eyes? One hundred percent! But all that said, I am relieved.
I am relieved that Israel is the Jewish state, and that I get to live here. I am relieved that all our views get representation in our government, views from all ends of the spectrum. I am relieved that we have a true and thriving democracy, where we can be free to aggressively insult our leaders with no fear of repression. I am relieved that I got through this crazy election season alive and intact. And mostly, I am relieved that this is all over, that we can go back to our regular lives where no one disagrees, and everyone just gets along all the time. Just kidding! We'll go back to arguing over everything here, just like we always do. And I love it all.