Galilee Diary #598, December 26, 2012
Jews in Israel are given the opportunity to bring economic, social
and political issues into the center of their religious consciousness.
The moral quality of the army, social and economic disparities and
deprivations, the exercise of power moderated by moral sensitivities,
attitudes toward minorities, foreign workers, the stranger, tolerance
and freedom of conscience all these are areas that challenge our sense
of covenantal responsibility.
-Rabbi David Hartman
My electoral activity has generally been limited to modest
contributions, and voting. But a year or so ago I was convinced by the
"Pluralism Lobby" to join one of the major parties, on the assumption
that if a lot of us liberal Jews did so, we could influence the parties'
platforms or at least their selection of Knesset members. In Israel,
there are local municipality elections, and there are national
elections. In the latter, one does not vote for candidates for any
office, but simply casts one vote for one of the twenty or so parties;
the number of seats in the Knesset assigned to each party (out of 120
total) is proportional to the party's share of the national popular
that national elections are scheduled for Jan. 22, the parties are
getting organized. The larger parties hold primaries, in which
registered members vote to create a prioritized list of candidates; then
if the party gets, say 15 seats, the top 15 on its list will fill the
seats. Smaller parties tend to use other methods (e.g., smoke-filled
rooms) to create their lists.
So I joined the Labor party, whose primary was held recently. There
were 83 candidates for what most polls predict as somewhere around 15-20
likely seats (though there can of course be surprises). For the two
weeks before the election I was bombarded with text messages and robot
calls, urging me to vote for particular candidates. Since the majority
of the candidates were people of whom I had never heard, newcomers to
the national political scene, these uninformative slogans were more
annoying than helpful; it got so I stopped saying hello when answering
my phone, waiting a few seconds to hear if a recording would start to
The night before the election I sat down with the booklet of brief
biographies of and statements by the candidates and made my slate (you
had to vote for between 8 and 12). Of course, I might not even have
participated in the process, feeling that my selection was superficial
and un-serious (and considering I'm not at all sure if I will vote for
Labor in the general election), had it not been for that fact that one
of the candidates was Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the
Israeli Reform Movement.
One can complain about the unholy entanglement of religion and
politics in Israel, which has led to the disenfranchisement of liberal
Judaism or one can accept the reality of that entanglement and try to
make the best of it. We complain about the nationalistic and anti-modern
voices of Orthodox rabbis in the Knesset so why not counter them with
the democratic and humane voices of liberal rabbis there? If we believe
that our Judaism is a source of ethical values, then it shouldn't be
separated from politics, but should be involved in the politics of the
Jewish state. If we want our understanding of Jewish values to resonate
in the corridors of power here, then we have to work hard to gain access
to those corridors.
So that's why I voted in the primary.
Rabbi Kariv ended up 25th in vote count, but was bumped to 28 on the
list because of slots reserved for various geographic, ethnic, and
gender groups. A pretty long shot, but we're definitely on the map. And
we'll be back.