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Elections in Israel, as seen through stained glass

On this day, as we shape our state together, I want to remember that my own vision is not the only valid one
Window with Grisaille Decoration, the Cloisters Collection, 1948. (Wikimedia Commons)
Window with Grisaille Decoration, the Cloisters Collection, 1948. (Wikimedia Commons)

When I first saw this stained glass window, it looked flat and dark and dull.

I was standing outside at the time, on a balcony that overlooks the Hudson River. The water glowed and sparkled in the generous sunlight, and the glass behind me was darkened and opaque.

But once I walked back into the relative dimness of the Met Cloisters, that treasure house of medieval artifacts and architecture in New York City, the window started glowing. It took moving myself into the darkness, and allowing the sunlight at come to me through the window, to unleash its glory into life.

I find myself thinking of this window today, as my friends and family vote in the Israeli elections. We tend to see our deepest beliefs as obviously, clearly, patently true. They sparkle for us like the sunlight on the Hudson: open and expansive and right. The beliefs we disagree with seem dull and uninspiring by comparison. How can you choose this, we wonder, when reality is so clearly that?

But sometimes, if we truly allow ourselves to withdraw into someone else’s point of view — if we allow ourselves to step back from our own glowing certainties, and look at reality through someone else’s eyes — the values that shape their inner world shine forth. They will never be as overwhelming (or blinding!) to us as our own beliefs. But if we allow ourselves to truly look at them with humility, we can see that these values are beautiful, and meaningful, too.

I do not mean to advocate a relativistic approach to ideas and values. If we believe in something, we should fight for it. If I think that something is true, you bet I’ll try and make this truth reshape our world.

But on this day, as we shape our state together, I want to remember that my vision is not the only valid one. I want to remember that those who vote for parties I reject don’t merely spurn my glowing vision: They, like me, are pursuing the lights within their own.

Parties come and go, coalitions rise and fall. Our civic duty to pursue our truths in democratic ways remains. Our privilege to live at a time when we can do so remains. Our shared fate as one society remains.

And I am grateful for it.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and speaker who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, parenting and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and Kveller, and explores storytelling in the bible as a teacher and on 929.
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