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Ups And Downs


Rabbi Berel Wein

Though every election in Israel is full of surprises because we are a restless and constantly dissatisfied people there is a pattern that has emerged from all of the previous nineteen elections that have bedeviled us over the past sixty-six years. The pattern includes constant fragmentation of existing parties as personal ambition and rigid ideology overtake practical and achievable goals. Another facet that is apparently constant in all Israeli elections is the emergence of new parties with grandiose promises and attractive personalities that seem to promise a rosy future of peace and prosperity, social equality and stern justice and an absence of corruption and venality. These new parties always seem to do quite well in the election process. The history of the state of Israel is loaded with the debris of such parties who rose, obtain substantial mandates to the Knesset and yet somehow disappeared or were terribly diminished by the next round of elections. There has been an unbroken pattern of this over the past many decades and it seems that it is about to occur in this coming election as well. There are a number of new parties and personalities, or better put, recycled personalities that seemed to be riding the crest of the wave of current popularity. Upon closer examination it is hard to see how any of their proclaimed programs and policies can actually be realized, given the nature of the Middle East, the Palestinians, the Israeli way of doing business and the heritage of the socialist infrastructure on which the state was founded. But I am confident that these new parties will somehow do well in the coming election and I am also confident that they will also end up, as almost all new parties that arose in Israel over the past years, in the dustbin of history.

Israel is always searching for a savior, a messianic figure that can and will solve all of our problems and make us beloved amongst the nations of the world, united at home and at peace with ourselves and our neighbors. So, anyone or any party that advertises itself as being that savior will naturally attract votes and support from a populace that is trained to ignore the realities of Jewish life and of the historical attitude of the world towards us. So, I am also convinced, that since the inception of the state of Israel the guiding hand of Heaven thwarts our follies and somehow does not allow the repetition of catastrophic mistakes made by us in the past. The Bible records for us a verse that states: "He Who dwells in heaven laughs at us; God mocks us." I do not pretend to know the opinion of Heaven as to our forthcoming election. In fact I think that invoking God’s name in this purely secular exercise is itself wrong if not even blasphemous. But I do have the feeling that Heaven is at least chuckling over the election campaign currently being waged by our erstwhile saviors, both new and old.

I have often recounted the anecdote attributed to Abraham Lincoln about the horse thief who was apprehended in his act of burglary. He was subjected to instant frontier justice and was tied to a rail, dipped in tar, covered with feathers and was being carried out to be deposited in a nearby swamp. Lincoln said that the man was heard to mutter that if were not for the honor he would forgo the pleasure. I think that that is a good description of what we are experiencing in the current election campaign. It is the honor that allows wise and good people to be subjected to the indignities that this type of election campaign produces. Some parties will increase their representation in the Knesset, some parties that were previously powerful and influential will wane and almost disappear. There will be many ups and downs as there always are in elections. Nevertheless probably very little will change in our daily personal lives and perhaps even in the overall national life of our wonderful little country. The savior will not yet have arrived and our problems are not likely to disappear in the immediate future no matter what the results of the election may be. This does not mean that we should despair of positive change are of good leadership. But it does mean that we should be realistic, rational and we should try to retain our emotional equilibrium and good sense in judging the parties and personalities involved. I make no recommendations or predictions regarding the election. I only think that it will always follow the pattern of previous elections and that the ups and downs of Israeli political life will continue in the future as well.
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