There is a famous Jewish story about a religious man who survived a shipwreck and was left hanging onto a plank. A fishing boat approached and offered to take him back to shore. The man kindly refused saying that he was waiting for God to save him. The lesson of the story is that God helps those who help themselves.
It wasn’t a mere chance that I remembered this empowering vignette on the morning after the election when the final numbers were publicized.
Since I am an optimist by nature, feeling despair was not an option and I was looking for something that would cheer me up. Then I realized that a fishing boat came for me too, on the day of the election.
I spent the second part of Election Day in the religious settlement Elkana. I was sent there by Meretz to be a chairperson of a poll.
The 3 other members of the committee were all from right wing and religious parties. But it didn’t matter, we were just 4 people working in harmony to make sure that the whole civil process went smoothly.
Inside the poll the atmosphere was festive: the voters, mostly young parents, came in with their children who took an active part in the whole voting process. They went with the parent behind the screen, came out smiling, had their picture taken, and then were allowed to put the envelope inside the box. Voter turnout was very high, around.85%
At 10 PM when we closed the door of the poll and counted the ballots there were no irregularities or any attempts to cheat. In some envelopes, we found two ballots, and in one even three (of the same party). But it seemed that those were evidence that small children, who handled the ballots, were not able to separate the papers.
In our poll in Elkana 500 people out of 667 voted for the right wing party of Naftali Bennett, and only one person for Meretz. If Tel Aviv is a bubble which does not reflect the rest of the country so is Elkana.
But sitting there for seven hours watching the voters and working with the other members of the committee, I grew to like the people, they were truly nice.
In 1997 Avi Mograbi made a film about Arik Sharon: How I Learned to Overcome My Fear and Love Ariel Sharon. It is a mock documentary in which a left wing film director follows Sharon in his election campaign. As he knows the truth about him, the director is ready to dislike Sharon. However, as the campaign progresses, he slowly falls in love with the charming man. The film is unsettling and effective, Avi Mograbi found a convincing way of conveying complexity. The viewer, together with the director, experiences ambivalence, the kind and likable person is at the same time the infamous Sharon.
Avi Mograbi is right, it is easier to like people who are unlike you, or those who vote for the extreme right, once you start getting to know them.
God helps those who help themselves, so perhaps after all those hours with the people in Elkana, it will be easier for me to live with the outcome of the last election.
P.S. Avi Mograbi’s site for downloading his films