I don’t think I need to elaborate on how divided the Israeli population and Jews worldwide are on tomorrow’s election. But, in a weird, glass-way-too-full type of way, it’s one of the amazing things about the Jewish people.
The division within the Israeli populace is the worst it’s been for a long time. It’s “us or them,” as both the Likud’s and Zionist Union’s campaigns (somewhat accurately) assert; either I am 100% left, or 100% right. Every Israeli believes that his or her view is what is best for Israel. But in that separation lies the paradox of a deep-seated unity. If you look past the divisions, past the disdain and disregard for others’ opinions, you see something quite unbelievable: the absolute devotion that each Jew shares to the best possible outcome for country and for people.
Sure, it’s optimistic. Sure, it’s probably far-fetched. But I believe this election has come to define the Jews, whether they be the Jews of today or of the Exodus: a people with unity in division. Our opinions differ, but our goal is the same. This is testament to our closeness and connection as a people.
Just look at how Israelis view their politicians. Bibi, Buji, Tzipi. These are either first names or nicknames. Israelis elect peers before they elect politicians. From such a small population, both of Israel and of the Jewish people, a relational understanding develops that defines us not as an electorate hoping for politicians to represent us, but as one entity with the responsibility of defending our only home. Bibi served in the military just the same as a vender in Mahane Yehuda Market has, a bond that reaches far deeper than fantasizing about having a beer with him.
Contrast that closeness with the stratified, disconnected political makeup of American politics. American politicians are notorious for being detached from their constituencies, both in policy and practice. Imagine if Anderson Cooper called President Obama “Barack” on national TV. Or, in an interview, Bill O’reilly addressed former President Bush as “W.” It just doesn’t happen in the U.S. Sure, love for man and country is just the same in America, but the unity that places plebeian and politician on the same pedestal is unique to the Jews.
These elections have given all too much validity to the “two Jews, three opinions” mantra. But it is that mantra that has distinguished, and continues to distinguish, the Jews from all other peoples. It has made it impossible to define us as a race, religion, or culture. Inexplicably, it has unified us. Odds are I probably disagree with you on what I think should happen tomorrow. But, for some reason, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.