Remodeling the National Kitchen

You may wonder why I am telling you this little tale of our remodeled kitchen. The truth is, it’s about much more than just a new kitchen sink.

To be fair, the original kitchen that came with our Jerusalem apartment had served our family well for many years. But recently, it became apparent that time had taken its toll. The kitchen cabinets had begun to sag; the single stainless steel sink was clogging up on a regular basis; and the formica counters bore deep scratches that made it increasingly hard to clean them properly. In addition, our family had grown, and the existing arrangement was no longer sufficient to provide what we needed.

So one day, we made a command decision. The time had come to remodel.

We planned carefully. We hired a contractor, redesigned the kitchen layout, ordered the best materials we could afford, and chose a color combination that suited our tastes.

Everything was ready. Except we didn’t fully anticipate what happened next.

On the first day of the (de)construction, the workers showed up promptly at 7:00 AM lugging 10-pound sledgehammers. They began their work. Within minutes, the apartment filled up with a thick cloud of fine white dust.

After two days of steady pounding, the kitchen resembled an active war zone. By the end of three more days of incessant mayhem, it was over. The entire room lay in shambles. It was hard to imagine that anything positive could emerge from such chaos.

Fortunately, at that point, the nature of the work shifted drastically. One by one, the workers carted in boxes and palettes packed with wiring, plastic pipes, bags of cement, tiling, and sections of wood. They hauled in two shiny new porcelain sinks.

Slowly, the new creation began to take shape. And then one day, the work was finished. We stepped into the now completed space, and we couldn’t believe our eyes. Our family began a new era.

* * *

Now, for the moral of the story: For nearly 72 years, the democratically-elected government of Israel has done a decent job of overseeing the needs of the fledgling nation. Through good times and bad, amidst terrible wars interspersed with years of powerful expansion and the absorption of millions of immigrants from the far-flung corners of the world – Israeli’s home-grown brand of parliamentary democracy has managed to make things work pretty well.

But then, almost a year ago, a routine election resulted in an unusual and unexpected conundrum: no single party received enough votes to form a working coalition. Faced with a deadlock, the nation’s leadership made a difficult and uncomfortable choice. They called for another election.

So several months later, following a cut-throat campaign and three billion Israeli shekels (nearly a billion dollars) of taxpayer money poured into the effort – a second election in a single year was held. The results this time: a DEAD TIE, and again – no coalition. This meant that the entire governing infrastructure had to continue running on autopilot, with no legitimate, functioning leadership at the helm.

The bewildered country struggled to figure out what to do. Then, a few days ago, things reached a boiling point. Two things happened. First, the leader of the second of the two largest parties openly conceded, as his opponent had done before him, that despite weeks of intense negotiations, he had failed to form a governing coalition.

And if that alone wasn’t enough of a shock to the country – on the very same evening, the Attorney General, after months of painful deliberation, announced his decision. For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, a sitting prime minister was to be indicted for a litany of ugly white-collar crimes: bribery, breach of trust, and corruption. Ouch.

So not only was the ship of state floating dead in the water, without sails or a decent paddle; even the captain was being summarily yanked from the bridge, with no first mate to back him up.

What does this mean? Ask people, on the streets and in the shops and schools. They are concerned. What will be? Without a fully-working government and no clear leadership, how will Israel deal with the existential threats posed by Iran and its proxies? What about the host of internal problems facing the country, including the status of the nearly quarter of the population who are Israeli, but not Jewish?

Lean forward, and listen carefully. One can hear the sounds of hammers smashing into the wood and concrete and ceramics and piano wire that have held this gutsy little country together for almost a century of its lifetime. It is difficult not to conclude that we are in for some inclement weather. We better fasten our seatbelts.

Nevertheless:

If one looks ahead with one’s imagination, a different system of governing is beckoning just around the corner – for Israel, and perhaps for the rest of the suffering, sputtering democracies throughout the world. For it is no secret that all over the world, traditional western-style democracies are failing to deliver the true needs of their increasingly educated and urbane residents, who rightfully demand more humane and responsive governments.

Hopefully, a new kind of system can be beholden to the voice of the people, yet capable of taking the kind of drastic actions needed to deal with Israel’s problems, catapulting the nation into an entirely new role. The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah, revered by half of the world’s population – the adherents to the three great Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths – had a name for it. In his 2,700-year-old book, he repeatedly talks about Israel’s role as “The Light of the Nations”. Of course, the exact nature and composition of the new governing system remain to be seen. Yet everyone knows that something is cooking.

And be assured. Refurbishing the kitchen is just the beginning. As the owner of the dry cleaners where I picked up my laundry today quipped when I told him this story: “We need an entirely new HOUSE, not just a kitchen.”

Stay tuned.

“On that day, HaShem will be one, and His Name – ONE.” (The Book of Zechariah, Chapter 14, Verse 9)

About the Author
Yisrael Rosenberg is a former New Englander who made aliyah 30 years ago. He lives with his wife and four children in Jerusalem.
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