Two weeks ago, I sat at the Shabbos table with family friends who had recently made Aliyah to Jerusalem. They described to me their excitement of the first time they voted in Israeli elections. As Olim, we all remember the indescribable feeling of Jewish pride upon receiving our Israeli passport, Teudat Zehut (Israeli ID card), and voting for the first time.
That’s it though, voting for the first time and a few times after. The Olim explained to me that the excitement to vote started to fade after a few times, and that they are getting tired of elections (they made aliyah just five years ago). Through the election campaigns over the last few years, they have lost sight of the issues and almost every party’s platform has centered around if they are for or against the reelection of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid said in an interview on Friday September 30th with Makor Rishon and stated, “the worst thing that can happen to Israel is Benjamin Netanyahu being in the political sphere, it is absolutely the worst thing possible”.
Benny Gantz, and the Nationalist Camp Party’s campaign has been centered around the slogan that Netanyahu’s reelection would be “Israel’s November nightmare”.
Gideon Saar and Avigdor Liberman were once prominent right wingers and because of their anti- Bibi crusade formed a coalition with Arab anti- Israel and progressive pro BDS left-wing parties.
Even Labor and Meretz which are supposedly hardline ideologically left-wing parties have said on many occasions that “they will do anything to take down Prime Minister Netanyahu and that this is the singular issue in the election”. Though they both swore to never form a coalition with prominent right-wing politician, Naftali Bennett, they crowned him as Prime Minister after the last election.
Even some of the right-wing parties are guilty of centering their entire campaign around Benjamin Netanyahu. Who doesn’t remember Aryeh Deri’s (the head of Shas) promotional signs which were plastered all over Jerusalem and declared that “Bibi needs a strong Aryeh”?
And what about the backtracking and now constant reassurances by Yamina (Bennett and Shaked’s defunct party) and today's Zionist Spirit led by Shaked, or by United Torah Judaism that they will support Netanyahu lest they lose support from their right-wing voter base?
Israel’s elections should not be centered around one person, they should not be vacant of ideology and content. After all, we are the only people in the world with such a strong historical and biblical connection to our heritage and land. If there is any nation or country where elections should only be about the issues, and not about the individuals, it is ours. Who we are as a nation is because of our traditions and ancestry. Our Bible and halakhic traditions bind God, meaning, and purpose to every detail of our lives.
What are we if when choosing political leaders who decide on the biggest issues that face our nation, we ignore their ideology and platforms, the details and purpose involved?
On Yom Kippur we come before God to declare our sins, repent, and return to what really matters in our lives. Everyone will repent in his or her way, but everyone will look at themselves in the mirror to rediscover meaning in their lives. We will hopefully find meaning in ourselves, our family, friends, community, and country.
Election season is upon us, and I request from everyone to look at the details and purpose which form the reasons they are in Israel. We should think about our vision of Israel, its Jewish identity, its army and security forces, and our heritage. We need to think about the politicians and parties who will help promote that vision.
It seems to me that the only party whose platform is clearly centered around Jewish identity, Jewish tradition, national security, Aliyah and strengthening Israel’s army and security forces is the Religious Zionist party. I expect to see other parties make their agendas similarly clear instead of centering around persona. We all made Aliyah with a purpose and had a dream for Israel. I call upon everyone leading into Yom Kippur to return to that vision, return to that dream and act to help make that vision become a reality.
Benjamin Sipzneris coordinating outreach and events in English for the Religious Zionist Party in the upcoming elections. He is an Oleh from New York, and recently completed his service as a lone soldier in the Nachal Brigade of the IDF. He can be found on Facebook and can be reached at [email protected].