I love politics. Always have. When I was a little kid, I had my Fisher-Price figures be mayors and governors. As I got older I read everything I could about American politics – both in history and current affairs. And when I fell in love with Israel, my obsession with her elections and parties and governments was even greater. The way some people can remember the roster of a sports team – I can tell you members of each Knesset party.
So when I took a job at the Knesset a few years ago, it was a dream come true. I don’t work in a department that has anything to do with policy, but just the thrill of walking around the halls, seeing the MKs, looking at the posters of previous Knessets – it would be like my family members getting to work at Fenway Park.
One drawback though: I’m not really supposed to discuss my political opinions publicly. And do I ever have opinions. Sit down with me for half an hour, and I’ll convince you to vote for my party, I’m sure. But I have to play by the rules.
So it’s been hard this past election season. I’ve been watching my friends post on Facebook, and pundits on Twitter – some I agree with and some I don’t, and I want to get involved. I want to write something. And I wasn’t going to – until now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my oldest daughter, who recently turned 18, and will be graduating high school in June. Tomorrow she’ll be voting for the first time, which of course is very exciting (I don’t know who’s more excited – me or her). But the opportunity to exercise her right to vote is just one example of the many choices she’s already been making recently and will continue to do in the months to come that will affect the rest of her life. What to do after high school – army or National Service? Where to study? What career? Where to live? Who to marry? (I know, I know, I’m getting ahead of myself here).
But what makes these decisions so exciting, and what makes them essentially convert her from a child to an adult, aren’t the results. It’s the fact that she is now making her own decisions. Can she ask for advice? Of course. Will she listen to advice others give her? I just told you, she’s 18! Will she make mistakes? I hope not too many, but there will be some, and she’ll hopefully learn from them too. But the ability to make mistakes is precisely what grants to our successes value. We’re not holding her hand – not in the ballot booth, nor in university. She’s on her own – with our support and prayers – but on her own.
And so when I started thinking about what I could write about these elections, I realized that despite how important the results of these elections are (and perhaps because of their importance), the most significant event is the actual vote. For centuries, the Jews were not able to make our own decisions. At best, we could trust benevolent rulers of our host countries. And at worst, far too often, we were persecuted by despots and mobs who resented our very presence in their lands. Today – no more!
With the advent of Zionism, we decided we were ready to take our destiny in our hands. To make our own decisions, to determine our own fate, and to make our own mistakes. That is something our ancestors could only have dreamed of.
Remember that tomorrow, at best 80% of the country won’t agree with your choice. But we can all celebrate the fact the excitement of trying to figure this thing out on our own. Tomorrow, we are all 18 years old.