A couple of years ago, two friends of ours went through a messy divorce. He used every opportunity to share sordid tidbits from their life together, presenting a very unsavory picture of her. She just kept quiet. No matter what he said, no matter what she was asked, the response was unwavering, “All information about our life together is private and shall remain so.” Not even a hint; only pure determination.
The funny thing was that the more he besmirched her and the more she kept quiet, the less people believed and cared what he had to say. Today, she is happily remarried with a new child and he… well let’s just say not much has changed for him.
I was reminded of the story this week, as I watched Naftali Bennett’s dignified unresponse to the 360 degree attack on him and his party. The unfavorable messages from the pre-primaries campaign were picked up by all and sundry: Otzma Leisrael (Bennett’s too soft), Tzipi Livni (Bennett is a hardliner), Likud (Bennett & Co. are religious fanatics), and finally Shas (Bennett &Co. are not religious enough). And if that was not enough, Bennett’s every media appearance included the obligatory “Sarah” question.
Yet again, the more dirt the others are spilling on Bennett, the more respect the party is gaining for sticking to the values it preaches. The strength of character in the face of personal attacks and gossipy interviews may be indicative of what’s to come after the elections. Just the ability to keep one’s mouth shut is a rare commodity in Israeli politics.
Habayit Hayehudi’s insistence on unity and acceptance is a breath of fresh air, especially when compared to the usual fare of hate and divisiveness. Israelis are known the world over for their optimistic, can-do attitude, yet the politicians have failed to plug into this outlook. For once, instead of garnering votes for policy, somebody is focusing on the public’s highest common denominator, the way many people want to be, even if they aren’t there yet.
The Tel Aviv celebrity saving the best blouse for Shabbat, the hundreds of soldiers vying for room in army synagogues built to house a couple of dozen, the “I am not religious, but…” –all these are searching for a political home that makes them feel good about their choices. Bennett’s inclusive platform has created a welcoming environment for the growing number of people, who are moving closer to Jewish values and observance, yet shun the sociological chazara betshuva of the move-into-the-ghetto, toe-the-party-line fame.
The Likud is right in dubbing Bennett a messianic. His message of bringing down the social divides reflects the millennia-old tradition, which teaches that redemption is contingent on our attaining brotherly love. At the very least, his campaign is a step in the right direction.