There are things we yearn for, when we don’t have them… and take for granted very quickly, when we have them. Freedom is one of those things. Often, when we have it, we have a lot of complaints… about the quality of life, the expenses we have to meet, about how unfair the system is, about the vast differences between the living standards of the rich and the poor. In our country, there were a lot of demonstrations a year ago, about the cost of living. A lot of young people who were ostensibly part of the middle class, complained that housing was much too costly… education was a terrible burden… and they just couldn’t make ends meet.
This week we had an election of members of the parliament here in Israel. The president of our country, and numerous political leaders urged citizens to vote for the party of their choice. About thirty different political parties attempted to attract the votes of the citizenry. And 12 parties gained representation in the next parliament. The prime minister, the government, and the policies of the country will be determined by a coalition of political parties, usually organized by the party that gains the most votes. On the day of election, we had a holiday. People didn’t go to work, or to school, so as to make it easier for all citizens to take part in the election. We call the day, ‘a celebration of democracy’
And in the weeks that lead up to the election, the different parties campaigned, trying to convince us to vote for them. Honestly, it was terrible. It sounded to me like they were selling coca-cola, or cars or jeans. Years ago, they used to present an ideological position. Now, each party was selling its leaders like they were rock and roll stars. They were insulting one another, and making a lot of noise with meaningless jingles. Towards the end of the campaign, I didn’t listen much to the radio or watch TV. It was just disheartening for me to listen to all that propaganda and nonsense. But on Tuesday, election day, I went to the polls early in the morning, and put a slip of paper which identified the party of my choice into an envelope, and slipped it into the ballet box, voting for the party that was closest to my personal political convictions. 67% of the population voted. No one is obliged to vote.
At ten o’clock that night, we turned on the TV to hear the first reports. After the polls had closed, the result of sample polls were published, giving us a pretty good estimate of how people had voted. I found it quite surprising and a little disappointing. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. For weeks now, there had been opinion polls every few days, and it seemed like we knew what to expect. I won’t go into the subtleties of Israeli politics. It doesn’t really matter so much, in relation to what I want to share with you. What’s important, is that the results were different from what had been expected, and suddenly we had a new reality to deal with.
It was tempting to think, what ridiculous results! I had had this vision of what would be good for the country, and the majority had chosen differently. But thinking about this in the hours and days that followed, I realized what a wonderful thing it was that a whole nation would go in an orderly fashion to the polling booths, and choose their leaders, and determine their fate. And the fact that this happened on a national level, truly reduced the responsibility of each of us as an individual. Our nation had spoken. And suddenly I was reminded of the injunction from the bible, to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. By relating to all my fellow citizens with love, I could understand how different parts of the society had each chosen the different representatives who would now sit in parliament, and determine the laws and policies that would shape our future. Thinking of my fellow citizens with love, I was able to overcome my personal disappointment, and find real hope in my heart that the many different representatives would learn how to work together in order to improve the conditions in our common society.
It is getting close to the Sabbath. The newspaper has already arrived. I will be able to read the learned opinions of experts on how it happened the way it did. And I feel truly grateful for this democracy that we have. So much better than a king or a dictator, whose wishes we would have to accept. And if the choices were poor, we will have another chance to change things in four years time. The photos in this post are of political rallies and demonstrations.