The election campaign is coming to an end and it is time to reflect on what has been a remarkable two months. I have been traveling around Israel around the clock, meeting spectacular people, and speaking about my beliefs with passion and conviction. I have been walking into rooms filled with fellow citizens who are searching for a message of hope and I have tried my hardest to show them why Yesh Atid is that voice. It has been a true thrill to drive to every breathtaking part of our country for a dialogue about our future with those whom I have never met before. This journey comes to a close tonight.
A few powerful moments from the campaign stick out in my mind.
The first was the official announcement of the Yesh Atid list. I was called to the podium and had the opportunity to thank God for bringing me to this remarkable place – a candidate for Knesset. I recited the “Shehecheyanu” in front of 500 people in that auditorium in Shoham while television cameras displayed the moment to the rest of the country. This truly is a land of miracles and standing on that stage as a candidate for Knesset, just eight years after moving to Israel, I really felt His presence and guidance.
The second was my experience at a Bnei Akiva high school in Bat Yam. As part of my presentation, I mentioned our dedication to fighting racism and discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants. I pointed to the two Ethiopian representatives in the party’s top 15 candidates as a demonstration of Yesh Atid’s commitment to improving their lot. When I finished my presentation, I was mobbed by a group of Ethiopian students. They told me that they heard many political presentations and no one ever talked about the needs of their community. I am proud to be representing Yesh Atid which has made meeting the needs of the Ethiopian community a top priority.
The third was an educational panel/debate at Michlelet Herzog in Gush Etzion. I had the challenge of presenting Yesh Atid’s plan for an overhaul in education. Michlelet Herzog is an educational training institution and Yesh Atid’s plan includes thinking completely out of the box to revamp Israel’s failing education system (42nd in the world in science, 37th in reading comprehension, 48% of students pass the matriculation exams). At first, the audience was suspect and doubted our plans. But, as I continued to explain the details of the Yesh Atid plan and answered their questions, the students began to see its wisdom and many openly embraced it. I was amazed by the intelligent questions which these future educators asked and the seriousness with which they related to the subject. This experience demonstrated to me that the future of Israeli education is bright. Our young educators have a passion for teaching and will rise to the occasion to excel within Yesh Atid’s major education reforms which include removing the fine details of running the schools from the control of the national education ministry and entrusting and empowering the principals and teachers.
The fourth memorable experience was my presentation to an army preparatory program (mechina) for secular young men and women. They were stunned to see someone who looks like me walk through the door representing the Yesh Atid party. They wanted to know why I wasn’t supporting a religious party. It actually troubled them because in their minds, there was no basis for a religious rabbi to be working with a secular icon like Yair Lapid. This provided me with the opportunity to explain that Yair came to the conclusion that it was time to reach out beyond his comfort zone and work together with religious people to address the burning issues within Israeli society. I explained to them that this is one of the more special dimensions of the Yesh Atid list and why I believe we can be successful in making massive changes in Israeli society. I could see how this message inspired these future soldiers and instilled them with hope for a better country.
Memorable experience number five was not a one-time experience but my numerous presentations to young American immigrants in Tel Aviv, Givat Shmuel and Jerusalem. It is remarkable how many new immigrants there are in their early twenties. They are so full of Zionism and dreams of a great future in their new homeland. They are the pride of American (and, now, Israeli) Jewry with leadership qualities and a super strong Jewish identity. They walked away excited and energized by the arrival of a new political party on the scene which provided solutions to all the issues which concerned them about Israel’s future. I left those events inspired by the passion which the audiences demonstrated and motivated to work even harder to prevent their worries about their futures in Israel from coming into fruition.
The sixth experience was also not a one-time event. I will never forget the numerous Haredim who contacted me to encourage me and Yair Lapid to move forward with equality in national service. They described the “prison” in which they find themselves or in which their children are trapped. They know that the Yesh Atid plan is the one which takes the needs of the Haredi community into account with special IDF and national service programs while freeing them to join the workforce. These calls gave me the strength to withstand personal attacks, mostly when interviewed by Haredi media. Their expressions of appreciation and the hope they expressed in Yesh Atid will stay with me as we move forward legislating equality in national service and basic general studies in Haredi schools.
Finally, I will never forget the dedication of the Yesh Atid volunteers. They dedicated day and night to helping the party, asking nothing in return other than a much improved country and future. They understood that complaining about the country’s problems will not make anything better and instead they devoted their time to help bring change. The enthusiasm which they showed at all campaign events demonstrated their love for Israel and I am so happy to become part of this broad Yesh Atid family.
I write these words in the early morning hours after my final major campaign event in Netanya. Despite the momentary void which the campaign ending seems to be creating, I know that the end of the campaign actually marks a new beginning. Whether I wake up on Wednesday morning as an MK-elect, or with another position within Yesh Atid, it will be time to get to work and this fills me with great excitement and enthusiasm.
I look forward to serving my country and nation as we work to create equality in national service, to overhaul the education system, to assist IDF veterans with affordable housing, to bring down housing costs, and to enact electoral reform. I look forward to showing the country that people from different backgrounds can find common ground and work together in unity.
Internalizing the lessons of these campaign experiences and recognizing the momentous times in which we live and the remarkable opportunities which we have to contribute to our national story fills me with great optimism for our future.
Time to get to work.