Another round of elections are upon us, and unlike the rest of the country, I am overjoyed. I’ve heard all the reasons why another election is the Worst Thing Possible: it’s an economic disaster, we have become a laughing stock of the free world, Israel doesn’t have enough trees to print a third batch of campaign posters, blah blah blah. While I can appreciate all of these logical and technically correct arguments, I personally am greatly looking forward to this election. For one thing, this will be my second time voting since I made aliyah, six months ago. That’s two times more than I voted in the South African and American elections. For all I know, my measly ballot might have been the one that prevented the forming of a coalition. Much like the Butterfly Effect, it could have set off a chain reaction of endless secret meetings, threats, and deadlines from the president which resulted in absolutely nothing. What a rush!
Secondly, Election Day means a vacation day. As a bat sherut (I’m doing National Service), this is nothing short of miraculous. Aside from Yom Haatzmaut or hacking off our limbs, there are very few occasions that warrant a day off. So while everyone loudly debated on Facebook about Bennett or Bibi, Right vs. Left, religious or secular, pita or laffa, all I could think of was beach or hike? Of course, I planned on voting. At some point in the day.
I’m old enough to remember the last election, five months ago. My friends and I, being the youth and the future of the country, took our voting responsibilities very seriously by planning a beach day in minute detail. We were going the Blue and White Route. Blue skies and white sands, that is. If this was our only day off we would get all year, then by heck, we would take advantage of it. We planned a busy beach day in sunny Tel Aviv (freedom, it’s intoxicating). When the long-awaited morning dawned, we couldn’t help feeling like we were forgetting something important, despite our meticulously planned tanning schedule and copious amounts of sunscreen. We were halfway to Tel Aviv when we realized that we’d forgotten to factor in time to vote.
That was the end of our trip. Each of us had voting polls in random spots across the country and we all went our separate ways to try to make them in time. This was not a simple matter. In an attempt to deter people from showing up, my polling station was in some cryptic location in Jerusalem that Google Maps refused to acknowledge. As I ran to my station, to a school that I’d never heard of, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz glared down at me from their posters. “Tehilla,” they seemed to say, “the polling booth is the other direction, fool.” They were right.
Once inside the booth, I proudly informed the voting assistants that I was here to vote.
“I’m probably on your list,” I told them importantly, discreetly hiding my beach towel behind my back.
“I also just moved here. This should explain everything.” I gave them what I thought was my Teudat Zehut like I was handing over my keys to the valet.
“This is a Rav-Kav, ma’am,” said the man at the counter politely. “I’ll need an actual identity card.” There was a burst of laughter from the people standing in line behind me. You just knew that they would never have even thought of going to the beach that day. Having now exposed myself as a total novice, I shuffled toward the booth and performed my civic duty. While many people hoped that this would be the last election (no really, the Last One), I just prayed that I’d put an actual ballot in the envelope and not my shopping list.
That election period taught me many things, namely, what politicians look like. I live in an area where people gleefully scribble over campaign posters, sometimes moments after they are put up. I was greatly surprised to discover that neither Ayelet Shaked nor Bibi Netanyahu had Sharpie beards and eye-patches in real life.
I’m also no stranger to parties and candidates making wild promises. South Africa has always been politically dominant with catchy slogans such as “Vote for Me And There Might be Less Crime” or “Choose the Party that Supplies Electricity 25% of the Time.” I can promise you this: none of those campaign platforms come close to the amazing benefits promised by some of the candidates in this country. What’s free healthcare when you are guaranteed eternal life in the World to Come?
I’d grown up with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of voting. In the days leading up to the first election, I would nod in mysterious silence when people asked who I’d be voting for. I was also sure that everyone would zealously guard the secret of their chosen candidate. I learned otherwise on the way to the polls. The bus was full of Israelis from all walks of life heading off to vote. Political leaflets littered the floor. Everyone was shouting out their choices and good-naturedly criticizing everyone else’s.
“Why would you vote for him? He’s a donkey!’’
“My father voted for that party, and his father. We’ve been voting for them since 1967.”
“Well, then your father’s a donkey.”
The only man safe from the criticism was the bus driver, smugly secure in the knowledge that if anyone insulted his choice of candidate, he would threaten to drive the bus into a tree. Man, it made me feel proud to be Israeli.
I’m older and wiser now. Much time has elapsed since the last election, nearly five whole months. This time I’ll do it perfectly. I chose a party weeks in advance, using well-thought-out reasoning and plan to join in the booing on the bus with gusto. I will be perfectly informed on every socio-economic aspect of the country and am going to stop making jokes about Groundhog Day. The fact that it’s a day off for me will mean nothing. I won’t enjoy it at all. I will merely take pride in being Israeli and making a difference. I won’t even go to the beach anymore. I can’t. The polling station still has my Rav-Kav.