Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Upcoming Elections. Still Exciting.

My first vote as an Israeli. We took pictures.
Elections are – and probably always were – rather nasty affairs.
Politics is dirty, and no matter how much we think that things are worse now than they've been in the past, I get a sense that politics was always a dirty game.
Yet, despite the mudslinging and the nasty ads (that ad makes me laugh every time I see it) and the personal attacks, as my second opportunity to vote as a citizen of the State of Israel approaches, a sense of pride and excitement wells up within me.
My vote counts for the future of the Jewish people, in a real and meaningful way. Had I not chosen to move my family to this country, my vote would never have been cast. My children will, God willing, serve their country and their people. They are growing up with a sense of belonging and identity that I could never properly articulate living in the United States; and they receive excellent – and I really do mean excellent – Torah education funded (mostly) by the government. Even the money that the government taxes me – my work, the clothes I buy, pretty much everything else – pays to defend the Jewish State, educate her children, buy fancy cars for government leadership – yes, even that. It might be payola, but it's the Jewish people's government's payola.
In the United States I viewed my vote as important, but somewhat impersonal. In truth, whether the President of the United States is left-wing or right-wing would never affect my tax rate (I don't make nearly enough money), my kids' education (which the government cannot pay for) or my daily life. Sure, the war on terror, or gun control, or the crazy level of U.S. government debt are all important issues, but only in an abstract, distant kind of way (for now).
Here in Israel, my vote is very personal. The issues that guide my vote are far more personal to me: I want my government to reflect the values that guide me: a sense of Am Yisrael and the importance of the Jewish nature of the State we build. (Can anyone guess what party I'm voting for this year?) But I also care about the high tuition I pay for high school compared to most Israelis, and the fact that food costs far too much here, and I care that National Service (Sherut Le'umi) and Garinim Toraniim are properly funded.
Even the "big" issues here are far more personal. Peace with Palestinians isn't abstract. What the government says and does today directly affects whether rockets will start falling across Israel tomorrow. It's not just "them" or "in the future." It's about us, right here, right now.
And however a small voice my may be, it's one vote more that, compounded over many olim, is slowly but surely changing the face of the State of Israel, and by extension, the Jewish people.