In the wake of the disappointing victory of the incumbent mayor, Moshe Abutbol, I certainly share many of my neighbors’ wishes that we now work to heal our city and move forward. We woke up on the morning after the election and nothing important has changed. We still have our wonderful families, friends and neighborhoods which are the focus of our lives.

But (sorry there is a ‘but”), we should not be Pollyannish about what happened either. While I sincerely believe that the “Anglos” who campaigned for Abutbol share our basic ideals and values, those values are not what won this election. This election was won via a message of fear, religious supremacy, xenophobia, religious extremism and a call to religious war against the “infidels”. The makers of that message (whether it be “official” or not) do not share our Western, liberal values. That message was so powerful that it brought out people to vote who have been ideologically opposed to voting since the founding of the state. And for their role in propagating the message, the Chachamim who did so all but destroyed whatever threads were left of the concept Emunas Chachamim for so many.

That said, I’m still optimistic. Responsibility is a moderating factor. Also, so much that is happening on the national level to liberalize Israeli society should help us as well. And I think the passage of the equal service legislation which, more than anything else, is really a jobs bill for Chareidim will do wonders for Bet Shemesh in the long run. After all, capitalism is also a great moderating force! The pendulum will, hopefully, swing back.

In the end however, people are people, or as Dr. Seuss would say, “Sneetches are Sneetches. And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.” In our daily interactions we should just remember that it doesn’t really matter if one has a star on their belly or not. Here are few things I’m working on for myself which others might find helpful…

  • When you are tempted to think generally about a group, first think of individuals in that group you know and are friendly with.
  • Differentiate between people and ideas. Don’t attack people, but even when you question their ideas try understand where they are coming from and appreciate their attachment to them.
  • Be skeptical in general, but most importantly, be skeptical of those ideas that reinforce your preconceived notions.

And since life is a musical, always end with a song…

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