It's the momentum that counts

People were quick to draw comparisons between Avi Gabai and Yair Lapid, but let's first compare Gabai to Naftali Bennett.

Sivan Rahav Meir ,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי

People were quick to draw comparisons between Avi Gabai and Yair Lapid, but let's first compare Gabai, from a practical, not ideological, point of view, to Naftali Bennett.

In both cases, they joined a well-established entity that boasted a rich record of achievements in the past but with a lifeless present. In both cases, they joined and took control of the party. Both the Mafdal and the Labor party were on the decline and then a successful and rich candidate appears from nowhere, breathes new life and hope into the party and within a short time takes over the old party structures, as the astonished apparatchiks look on.

A new era is beginning. Bennett's and Gabai's respective victories reflect not only their talents, but also the depths of despair and crisis of the parties they joined.

What can we expect now? Gabai promised a new political era (and now Lapid's new politics has suddenly become 'old') and promised to traverse the length and breadth of the country. I don't want to dampen the enthusiasm but, based on past experience, the number of seats he will win won't be decided now, but on the day of the next general election, or at most a day or two in advance. The trends and buzz that will be generated during the future campaign will be crucial in determining the results. After all, Gabai, Lapid and all the heads of the Left-Center bloc are all competing for the same seats and all want to be the one to finally unseat Netanyahu.

In the 2009 election, Tzipi Livni and the Kadima party won 28 seats, drawing away voters from the Labor party headed by Ehud Barak (13 seats) and Meretz who only won three seats. In 2013, Lapid entered the political arena for the first time and garnered 19 seats. Then two years ago people truly believed that Herzog could win the elections and he achieved a high of 24 seats, whereas Lapid crashed from 19 to 11 seats.

In those elections, Netanyahu also "swallowed up" seats from all the other parties when he went on to win 30 seats for the Likud. These are not the hardcore ideological voters of Smotrich or Zoabi. A party leader can hold parlor meetings, conduct polls and have a political spin every single week at the present, but at the finishing line, at election time, the winner will be decided by the momentum that is generated.


The commander of the Karkal battalion won't be the last officer to be dismissed from the IDF because of unbecoming behavior. Anyone who is familiar with the norms in many places of work, especially the police and IDF, knows that it is only a question of time till the next such affair comes is uncovered. I have a few, not politically-correct, questions to ask as a result of this most recent affair: Are men and women expected to work together in extremely close contact as if they were creatures who have no desires whatsoever? And are they also expected to serve together in a combat unit ignoring human nature? Why is it that those who wish to promote women's rights and a safe workplace for women are the very ones who consider it primitive to set clear boundaries of separation? In other words, why are the representatives of the feminists not demanding the minimal sense of honor and distance between the sexes demanded by representatives of religious people?

It's interesting to note that a similar discussion is taking place in the States. Vice President Mike Pence is a conservative Christian (and at the rate of President Trump's embroilment in one scandal after another, he may yet become President). During the election campaign he was quoted as saying that he does not attend events in which alcohol is served, unless his wife at his side and that he does not go out to dinner with any woman other than his wife. Of course, he was widely criticized in the media and ridiculed for his "crazy" extremist views.

This week, the issue returned to the news when the "New York Times" published the results of a poll conducted among 5300 American showing that it is not Pence who is out of touch with the people, but those who criticized him. "Sixty percent of women and almost half of the men surveyed believe that it is inappropriate to have dinner or go out for a drink with a work colleague of the opposite sex."

The "Washington Examiner" commented on the survey's findings: "Following the minor culture war sparked by Pence's views, it has become clear that many Americans share the Vice President's philosophy about personal relationships in the workplace. The media is ignorant about the culture of those who are not part of their bubble."

Writing in the "Washington Post" senior commentator Aaron Blake noted that the media was shocked — shocked! — that a conservative Christian couple would establish such boundaries. Yet again, it seemed, here was the East Coast liberal media just not understanding the values of middle America."

Now it would be nice if the VP would impart some of his norms with his President, but the fact of the matter is that we don't need to look to Mike Pence for rules of behavior. For thousands of years we have known how to preserve this delicate balance. A Jewish Democratic state is not just a flag and anthem, it is also a workplace that respects those working in it.

Among the topics discussed in this week's portion, Pinhas, we read about the Spies who were sent from the wilderness to spy out the Land of Israel and who returned to report to the people that they shouldn't continue their journey to the Promised Land but rather should return to Egypt. According to commentators, ever since then we have been charged with rectifying the Spies' sin. In the week we read about the sin, I received a letter that goes a long way to doing just that. It was about youngsters who come here to spy out the land and made the immediate decision to remain.

"Dear Sivan. My name is Amelie Hababou, the deputy director of CNEF, an organization which deals with the immigration and absorption of young French people. We set up a project that enables 18-year-olds to remain in Israel on completion of the "Masa" program because some of the participants return to France and lose their motivation to make aliya and don't come back.

They also miss out on a few important months of summer Ulpan courses or IDF and National Service draft dates. We offer these youngsters to stay here and change their status from 'tourist' to 'new immigrant' and only then to go back and pack their bags. This week, 80 French youngsters chose to do just this, and we arranged a ceremony in their honor. New immigrants usually receive their identity card when they land at Ben Gurion. However, these youngsters came here as tourists, fell in love with the country and decided to stay."