Election Farce (by Avi Woolf)

[The following was written by my son, Avi Woolf, a very cogent observer and analyst on contemporary Israeli Life. I added a few points here and there.]

I have lived in Israel since the year 1993. I have witnessed elections as a child, a teenager, and an adult  and during corresponding phases of my political maturation. I have seen many absurd ads, negative campaigns and bombastic declarations. But I have never seen anything to match the present election season.

To call it a farce would be the understatement of the century. Between Tzipi Livni’s ad comparing voting for her to losing one’s virginity to the right person, the Chuck Norris comparisons to Naphtali Bennett (and Norris’ endorsement of Netanyahu), Shas’ racist campaign against Russian immigrants (and insidious undermining of attempts to resolve the conversion crisis), and the violent personal attacks and threats among all the political parties, I am absolutely floored by the utter stupidity and vapidity of all major parties on the political spectrum (and not a few of the smaller ones).

American Idol has more substance than this. In fact, the entire phenomenon feels like a bad satire of low-brow TV entertainment. No. It’s a bad satire of American professional wrestling. All the elements are there – the personal insults and meaningless bromides, the flexing of muscles and the personal attacks and threats. At least Chuck Norris endorsements feel far more apt to professional wrestling than political discourse.

The tragedy is that this isn’t a fun show which people watch for its dubious entertainment value. We’re talking about national elections, for God’s sake. The people who win this contest will not be taking home a gold-plated belt and a multi-million dollar contract. They will be the ones who decide how much money you will pay in taxes, and how that money will be spent. They will direct your kids’ education. They will be responsible for your personal safety from criminals and terrorists.

That is why this is so frightening. Neither the parties nor the candidates have behaved in a way that makes one believe they are capable of running a grocery store, let alone a country. I’d as soon support a Chuck Norris party for the elections. It is a sad testament to Israeli democracy that we have gone from serious and contentious debates over real and burning issues to this vacuous, egocentric, free-for-all.

I wish I could pretend I had a solution for this malaise, but I don’t. All I can say is that whoever wins this election, I will not be celebrating. I weep for our future as a mature society.

About the Author
Jeffrey Woolf is an Associate Professor in the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan University. He is both a Medieval and Renaissance Jewish Historian, and an Orthodox Rabbi who is a long time advocate of the creation of a uniquely Israeli form of Modern Orthodoxy.