I am thrilled to see that there are potential Anglo candidates in many of the political parties this election cycle and I’m sure many English speakers in Israel agree. Jeremy Gimpel who is running in today’s HaBayit Hayehudi primaries today and a longshot to win a spot, Daniel Tauber who may win the 35th slot in Likud which is, unfortunately, not a realistic spot, Chili Tropper who may win a realistic spot in Labor, Eytan Schwartz, also in Labor and Dov Lipman who is rumored to be in a very realistic spot in Yesh Atid, all bring great pride to people like me – recent immigrants from English speaking countries who feel they have no representation in the Knesset.
Of course, no one should vote for a party which runs counter to their values and beliefs simply to get an Anglo candidate into Knesset. The election is more than a popularity contest. That is obvious. However, if the principles represented by the Anglo candidate’s party are within range of someone’s values, I believe that voting for that party to help an Anglo candidate enter the Knesset should be a major consideration of ours.
When I lived in the United States, I had the luxury of contacting my Congressman about almost any issue. He was obligated to help everybody he represented. Who do you turn to in the Knesset when you need government level assistance? If you write to a member of Knesset in the party you happened to have voted for, you will likely not even receive a response! If you call their office you will probably get an answering machine and no one will bother to call you back. For those immigrants who don’t speak Hebrew, writing or calling a Knesset member’s office to begin with is a difficult and, for some, an impossible task.
Contrast that with what life will be like when a recent immigrant from an English speaking country is in office. You will write to MK Gimpel’s office and I am sure you will receive a timely response. You will call MK Tauber’s office and someone who speaks English will greet you with a friendly voice and provide you with assistance. MK Lipman has already said that he would make the rounds to neighborhoods with large numbers of English speakers to host town hall meetings in English to identify the wants and needs of the English speaking population. You could pop into MK Tropper’s office while on a Knesset tour and be treated like a true constituent.
Many English speakers deny the fact that we, as a community, have specific needs but this is simply not the case. Many children of new immigrants are struggling and the education system has to be adapted to meet the children’s needs. Young, single immigrants have many struggles related to university study, employment, and overall adapting to this new land. Given all we have to contribute to the country’s future, must become a first priority of the absorption system and not the last. Those who make aliyah as seniors routinely complain about the system and the lack of assistance coming their way. And, as someone who loves sports, let’s face it – we can certainly use someone to try to build some baseball fields in Anglo areas!
Why can’t Anglos have their representative? Russians, Ethiopians, and Arabs all have MKs that they can turn to. There are MKs who proudly identify with their origins. Why should the Anglo community be any different? The Anglo community deserves a voice, just like any other minority in Israel. Let’s face it, we are a minority; talk to a native born Israeli on the street, and they will give you a second look, whether it’s the clothes you wear or your accent. We are different, and Israelis recognize that, so why can’t we?
I don’t think we can ignore the fact that there is a serious lack of Zionistic spirit in our country. People walk around questioning why we are here and wonder if it is worth all our struggles to be here. As a recent Oleh, this can be quite depressing. Gone are the days of proud Israelis. Gone are the glory days of Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, and Menachem Begin. An English speaking MK can use the platform of the Knesset to share our Zionistic spirit, and perhaps inject the rest of the country with a much-needed dose of Zionism. Tropper, Tauber, Lipman, Schwartz, and Gimpel all embody this ideal and will, no doubt, uplift an entire generation that lacks this spirit and perspective. In addition, an English speaking MK will bring our community great pride and will certainly raise awareness regarding aliyah and Zionism worldwide.
Let’s face reality. Golda Meir and Moshe Arens in the past, and Yochanan Plesner and Yaakov Litzman in the present may have lived in English speaking countries but they did not set out to label themselves as Knesset representatives for the entire English speaking population in Israel. Schwartz, Lipman, Tauber, Gimpel, and Tropper have. There is no escaping it. We should be keeping tabs on their progress and taking note of who is in a realistic spot to enter the Knesset. Those English speakers who are within idealistic range of that candidate’s party (if they identify with that party’s platform) should not only vote for it but get involved and help make sure we send someone who can represent us and assist us to the Knesset.
The bottom line is that an Anglo Member of Knesset who views himself as a representative for all English speakers in Israel will be revolutionary for the Israeli English speaking community and should absolutely be a factor for all of us when he head to the voting booth on January 22.