For the past several months I have volunteered at the HQ of the Zionist Union with the English-speakers Division, an exciting, intense and often exhilarating experience. Yet, as in much of the country, I have to face the results of the election and the depressing consequences for a democratic Jewish Israel.

In the face of the brutality and blatant racism of the campaign, below is a note sent to the hundreds of amazing Zionist Union volunteers committed to change and to a better more inclusive Israel, and who gave generously of their time and energy, hoping to make this happen.

To all our devoted and hard-working volunteers,

SIGH, but thank you for all you have done in the past few months to send Bibi home and instead give us a new, progressive, hopeful government. Indeed, on Tuesday night the world looked different with the hope that the Zionist Union could pull out a lead.  Clearly the actual count is very disturbing and very disheartening.

  • How sad that voters in the periphery voted heavily Likud  – against their own daily interests – and for parties which diverted untold billions to the settlements at the expense of the development of Dimona, Sderot, Kiryat Shmona, Ramle, Lod, and, and, and…
  • How sad that the vision of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state is further away
  • How sad that the world will have reason to further isolate Israel, doing damage to us diplomatically and economically
  • How sad that “Mr. Security” hoodwinked so many voters into believing that he has not made us weaker and that we are better off without world partners
  • How sad that the state of the Jews will become even more intolerant of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism and more coercive of all its citizens while keeping ultra Orthodox communities without access to an education and services which will free them from poverty;
  • How sad that the prospects for peace are further diminished, and the prospects increase for one state with an eventual Jewish minority;
  • How sad we will be again led by a man who does not seem to live Jewish values of honesty, understanding, and regard for others;
  • How sad that this man who receives millions/billions from Sheldon Adelson, publisher of Yisrael Hayom – a free daily campaign advertisement for Netanyahu, cynically accuses parties in the center and left of receiving international funding, without a shred of evidence or embarrassment
  • How sad that rudeness, violence, lawlessness and racism have been winked at, yet again;
  • How sad that we will have again to suffer the ‘demure’ and ‘adoring’ Sara with her warped values, petty thievery and wicked temper instead of having Michal Herzog as our first lady with her grace, intelligence and humor
  • How sad that the man who tried to censure free speech through the Israel Prize will continue to countenance intolerance for free expression and protection of human rights.

Overall, the Zionist Union has much to be proud of, and we want to preserve and spread the optimism of our campaign, its ideas and its leaders.

We know we will have in the Knesset an impressive range of Zionist Union members, recognized for their intelligence, creativity, tolerance, inclusiveness and pragmatism.  They know that the best way to have a strong, secure Israel is to focus on military and intelligence systems along with internal security including high quality education, affordable housing, a strong public health system, clean air, caring social services, civil discourse and on-going economic development and good jobs for all.  To paraphrase another well-known politician, change will take a village. We are so glad to be in your village, and have you in ours.

Finally, volunteering on a campaign is a fascinating, challenging and often exhilarating experience. Our little English-speakers volunteer steering committee consisted of a senior Tel Aviv official, a couple of recent graduates who gained unparalleled experience and contacts, a lone-soldier, and a former senior executive in government and the Jewish world.  We were joined occasionally by international press experts and some interns from the Australian Labor Party, and of course by the hundreds of volunteers who assisted at large events, house parties, distributed materials, did translations, made phone calls; smiled, marched, rallied and reached out to friends and neighbors; and performed the mitzvah of taking people to the polls.

Comments, problems, ideas?  We are gathering them for the next campaign and will be pleased to hear from you.

We cannot really thank you properly other than to say you mobilized for an excellent cause, and we could have not gone as far as we did without you!!!

So, on to some post-morteming, and then to re-double our efforts to reach out to all Israelis and enlarge the circle of those who cherish a progressive democratic Jewish Israel and who value the sweet words of the 1948 Declaration of Independence:

The State of Israel…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights of all its inhabitants irrespective of religion…   it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language,   education and culture…”.