President-elect Rivlin: In Messy Democratic Process, Israel Chooses a Light Unto the Nations

Today, the Knesset elected one of its own, MK Reuven Rivlin as Israel’s Tenth President in a messy but democratic process.

“Democracy is messy,” acknowledged Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense under two presidents. And Sir Winston Churchill once famously remarked, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

The whole process, Professor Charles Lindblom  of Yale University a world-renowned economist, said, is “the science of muddling through.” He observed  that we are individually irrational and self-absorbed; and therefore, democracy succeeds not through rational planning and farsighted engineering, but somehow it works anyway. It operates on a principle he called “partisan mutual adjustment” by  which all sides jockey for what they want and end up with what they are willing to accept.

We certainly saw very publicly expressed in the recent election.

Yes, we saw a messy contest. But we also saw a good outcome, gracious losers, a gracious victory and reason for great hope.

President-elect Rivlin praised his competitors.  Of his closest competitor, MK Meir Sheetrit, he said, “What a fight you put up,”

“I am not mad at anyone,” President-elect Reuven Rivlin said just before hugging Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and receiving a priestly blessing from Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.

Just prior to the vote, he told Israel’s Army Radio: “I’m a centrist. I’m in favor of peace. At times of war, I’m as hawkish as they come. I’ll be a president for everyone.”

Then, he told Isreal’s Channel 2 that the first thing he’ll do now that he’s president-elect is pay a visit the grave. of his father, Yosef Yoel Rivlin, who translated to Q’oran  into Hebrew. He also visited the Kotel (Wailing Wall).

Dinning a kippa ( a skullcap) and reciting a prayer with a crack of emotion in his voice, Rivlin praised the Almighty for blessing Israel with peace (Psalm 29:11).

“The Knesset is the spice of life of the Israeli democracy. From this moment I begin a personal process of separation from the place that has been my home.”

“The Knesset was my home… [for 22 years]. I was a politician… but now [I] must abandon party politics and become “a man of the nation.” The President’s Residence,  is “the house of all Israelis,”

He closed his remarks by saying,

“Citizens of Israel,” “I thank you for your trust.

Long live Israeli democracy, long live the state of Israel.”

President-elect Rivlin has a great pedigree. A descendant of the students of the famed Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, known as the Vilna Gaon, he is an eighth-generation Jerusalemite, whose family immigrated to Jerusalem in 1809.  The family takes its name from a prominent Torah scholar called Moshe Rivkes (b. circa 1600), author of the commentary Be’er HaGolah on the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law).

He served as the minister of communications and the Knesset Speaker. Earlier, he was also the deputy mayor of Jerusalem and one of the managers of soccer team Beitar Jerusalem. He was an intelligence officer in the IDF, and served under General Mordechai “Motta” Gur during the 1967 Six Day War in the division that freed the Western Wall. After his service, he earned a law degree from the Hebrew University. In the past, he also served as a member of the El Al board of directors, and as the chairman of the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene.

Prior to declaring his candidacy, then MK Rivlin disclosed his capital statement. He owns a four-room apartment he bought in 1973 for NIS 220,000, and which is currently worth NIS 3 million. He owns no other property and has limited other assets, earned entirely from his salary as a public servant.

He enters his new position eyes wide open, with a knowledge of the limitations and possibilities of the office. In these columns, he wrote a few days ago:

One should not conclude from the dearth of presidential powers that, in the words of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, all the president can do is “blow his nose.” For it is precisely the lack of power that enables the president to remain true to his nonpartisan outlook, which encompasses all Israelis… .

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated him, saying,

“You are tasked with two great missions: To unite all the layers and components of society from within and to represent the State of Israel to the rest of the world.”

All of Israel, your humble correspondent included, join the Prime Minister in congratulating President-elect Rivlin, and wishing him a long and successful term in office.

In the famous lyrics of Joe Cocker,

You can leave your hat on…You give me reason to live”

for the messy democratic process that chose him.

May he lead and guide us in being a “light unto the Nations. (Isaiah 49:6).”

David E Y Sarna is a writer and former entrepreneur. He has eight published books including his latest, Evernote For Dummies, V2. He has nearly completed his first novel about the Mossad and the Jewish treasures in the Vatican’s secret archives. He is hard at work on a book about the Talmud for general readers.

© 2014 by David E Y Sarna

About the Author
David E Y Sarna is a writer and former entrepreneur. He has six published books and is currently working on Evernote For Dummies, V2. He has nearly completed his first novel, about the Jewish treasures in the Vatican's secret archives and is working on a book about the Talmud for general readers. He lives in Teaneck, NJ. His publications and CV are available at