On the same day that the prime minister faced the charges against him in a live press conference by not facing them, I saw PR agents share sprawling pics of themselves on social media (rather than of their clients); people posting the tickets they were able to buy for the upcoming Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv, and thus displaying their wealth; and the everyday occurrence of walking behind someone who decides to suddenly stop in the middle of the sidewalk to check their phone. And the ongoing stripping of each other’s humanity online through verbal violence. And…and….
For a society that seems increasingly individualized and self-centered, how do we model a different kind of behavior than those with the most influence? There’s a remaining refuge for empowering each other, and especially those with less power — and it’s found, of all places, in the upcoming elections for the 21st Knesset.
If you don’t watch the televised elections ads, you should. Not because I spent five minutes translating the broadcast schedule into English, as part of my social initiative The Here & There Club, but because you will hear people whose voices won’t be heard again for a long time.
Say what you will about a record 41 parties running for Knesset, but it’s one of the few times when the smallest voices get the country’s backing to speak on a national level: Pensioners and their children, educators and contract workers, and yes some that are taking their vote and yours less than serious. These are people who can’t fall back on well-funded speaking tours should they not get elected, nor sit on the Board of Directors of a private company. These are people speaking in front of blue screens and reading off cue cards, but likely have more courage than all of us combined.
The ads broadcast on traditional media (and now on the channels’ respective websites) are one of the last places were anyone is given the chance to make themselves heard. Our democracy doesn’t have direct representation, and we’re one of three democracies that votes as one electoral district. We’re already conditioned to vote along sectarian lines, and if your voice is already underrepresented, your chances of being heard the day after Election Day decrease.
We immigrants from Western countries — ourselves a minority, though counted in the majority — have yet to make our own voices heard. This upcoming Knesset, regardless of results, will have the fewest number of Western immigrants in recent sessions. Say what you will of Dov Lipman, whom I didn’t vote for when he was an MK, but he was one of the first to recognize the invaluable democratic traditions he was raised in and extended it to all by publicizing his phone number and office hours to any citizen in need, making himself accountable even to those who didn’t vote for his party.
We are the only immigrant group in Israel’s history that has emigrated from democratic nations and grew up in democratic societies, thus perhaps the best stalwarts of democracy — and yet, we have yet to find our place in elected office.
There’s a reason why in Hebrew the word for ‘voice’ and ‘vote’ is the same, but we have yet to make that reason heard. Election Day is not our voice hitting a crescendo, just a new octave. And the way we best make our voices heard is to amplify those around us, especially those with less privilege and affluence than ourselves.