Ahead of this week’s Israeli Knesset elections streets were covered in political party signs, each marked by different party logos, slogans, and faces of top party leaders. As someone unfamiliar with this electioneering style, it definitely stood out as different, but didn’t shock me. What shocked me were bright yellow signs in certain parts of Israel, signs that translated to; “In These Elections, We Will Not Vote.” These bright yellow signs are far from a commonality, but they undoubtedly indicate anti-election sentiment by some Israeli citizens.
As names of Israeli political parties and figures became familiar participants in dinner table conversations, larger concepts were discussed across Israel and the world. Affordable housing, two-state solution, and peace negotiations all became popular subjects of conversation in the last few months, weeks, and days. Still now, with final numbers being reported, conversations regarding the future of the State of Israel continue to erupt.
In the days of the Warsaw Ghetto, Yitzchak Katznelson, a renowned ghetto poet, wrote about his sentiment towards what he believed would be the end of the Jewish people. In his poem titled, “It’s All Over,” Katznelson writes,
And my hotheaded Communists will no longer bicker and argue with my Bundists, Neither will they wrangle with my liberty-loving, devoted and conscientious Halutzim who offered themselves to the world, not forgetting their own woe. I watched the disputes and grieved… if only you could continue to argue.
Katznelson’s fear of an end to all disputes was understandable, and annihilation wasn’t the only silencer of conversations. Visiting Majdanek, one of the cruelest concentration camps at which hundreds of thousands of Jews faced their death, on the same day that Israeli’s were heading to the polls leaves for a unique perspective on the significance of elections.
Majdanek consisted of forced labor, forced actions, forced death. The Nazi’s built the concentration and death camps in a way that silenced everyone that forcefully walked through the entrance gates. The pain of silence, the agony of entrapment, the inability to discuss and decide; reminders of a dark past, that makes us appreciate our freedom today.
For the most part, Israel’s neighbors still fail to understand the power of democracy, and the power of every voice. In these countries, fair elections are an abnormality, political opposition leads to executions, and people are left in silence – voiceless. Israel is unique in that it values every voice, it values these discussions, and no matter who you are or what you believe, you have a part in deciding the future of the nation.
The yellow signs couldn’t be more wrong, because today we vote in elections where we all have a voice and we should use it. Our voices were once silenced, we had no voice in our future. Today our voices matter, today our voices count, and today we determine our own future. Katznelson would be proud to know that at dinner tables across the world, arguments are ensuing, discussing the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Today, no matter the Knesset seat distribution, no matter the coalition, no matter the Prime Minister, everyone must keep a sense of pride deep in their heart, because no voice went unheard, because every vote was counted, because arguments ensued, and because our future is in our hands.