It Was My First Israeli Election

It Was My First Israeli Election

There are two big differences between voting in America and voting in Israel.

The first is that unlike in America where the voter chooses a candidate, in Israel the voter chooses a political party and if that party receives the most votes, it is given the task of forming a coalition.

The second big difference occurs on election day itself.

Several weeks before the vote each citizen receives a small white card in the mail alerting the voter to the location of his voting station.

On election day he arrives, waits in line, signs in, receives an envelope, stands behind a booth and from a box with many little cubicles stuffed with pieces of paper representing the different political parties, he chooses one.

He then places the paper in the envelope, seals and drops it in a large blue ballot box in the center of the room.

This year, due to an unsatisfied voter base, many of us didn’t choose a party until literally, the last minute. I didn’t make my final decision until after the security guard at the local high school I was assigned checked my bag.

Still, the question of ‘who’ I was going to vote for was not as important as the fact I was voting and doing it in my people’s home, Israel.

That’s why it was shocking that only sixty three percent of eligible voters came out to stand in similar lines around the country.

We all know living in Israel can sometimes be frustrating but where were the people on this great day?

Everyone knows that this past election could have major ramifications regarding the future of the modern day Jewish homeland.

But even more than the heat of the moment, the act of voting itself was enough to bring me out to independently proclaim who will represent my confidence in the next government, though I didn’t really care for many of the parties’ platforms.

More than just feeling like I was acting on my civil right to vote, the reason for voting was much deeper and involved the drive that brought me here.

It involved pride and in retrospect, the merit of being patriotic on a day that became the lowest voter turnout in Israeli history opened my eyes to the possibility that not only beauty but freedom can also be in the eyes of the beholder.

Being a US citizen, this was not my first introduction to voter apathy and the common perception that it doesn’t matter whom you vote for because you feel like nothing’s going to change.

But as Israelis continue to strive to be like America, the great country that it is, it appears they have incorporated a common American misconception that voting will not make a difference.
Just like Americans sometimes forget how awesome the freedom and liberty is that binds the United States together and how that reflects upon residents of the US, Jewish Israelis don’t realize that their alienation from the polls may hinge on a lack of something deeper: pride in the themselves.

This can best be illustrated by an incident that happened to me in a bar on Purim this past March. That’s where I met Shlomi, 25, who was dressed up as Elvis though he looked more like a 1966 version of Paul McCartney.

Sitting at a table eating peanuts, Shlomi listened to me tell him why I came to live here and why this is the best place for Jews to be.

It was not about lack of appreciation for America or other countries of origin where our people are scattered but it was about pride in who we are when we live in our ancestral home, even with all of its problems.

Shlomi sat and listened and in the end he said he regretted he didn’t feel the same but was grateful for people who come to live here because as he put it, “they are the only ones who are ideological today and what we need here is renewed ideology.”

Though he was not ready to lead the pack, Shlomi acknowledged he believes in the good of this country but after a difficult army service and other issues pertaining to religion he wanted to be left alone to live his life without all the bureaucracy.

When I stood in the ballot box line at the high school on election day I looked around and thought of Shlomi.

Of all the people there, most were middle aged or elderly and everyone seemed to carry a smile in and out of the voting booth.

Most had lived in Israel for years and I could tell they held their heads high knowing they were voting in an election whose main participants were Jews.

While other minorities are welcome in the political process here, voting in Israel means forming a government that is primarily Jewish that will be a part of the greater international community giving the Jewish People a say in the world and that itself is an amazing thing.

Now that several months have passed since the elections, I think the people who voted in that campaign must immediately spring forth to change the face of this country.

Those of us who have pride in being in our ancestral homeland must refill the pride in others and go out and tell everyone how good it is.

We must reinstate the family atmosphere and jettison the distasteful voices that believe in post-Zionism whose fruits only bare self-hatred and lead to self-destruction.

But where do we start?

I know for myself, my first step in this campaign was when I placed the piece of paper in the blue envelope, sealed it and held it over the large blue box in the middle of the room.

What my vote actually meant and if it made a difference where I believe the difference needed to be made will only be answered during the great debate this country will engulf itself in the coming year.

However, I left that high school with a smile on my face and walked down my street on the partly cloudy election day knowing that whatever the outcome, Israel is our home and this is where the Jewish People need to be and that is why I voted.

We made the dream come true and now we must wake up and make the dream reality for many more generations.

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