Understandably, many Israelis feel they’ve had enough of politics and elections. The last two years have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, old parties practically collapsing, new parties emerging, politicians hopping from one party to another. We’ve seen political power plays, heard of shouting matches in cabinet meetings and mudslinging all over social media. We seem to be in a cycle of negativity surrounding anything relating to Israeli politics. Despite all of that, I at least, have found some positives this election season.
When elections were announced, I decided to start a Facebook page (Israeli Politics. Simplified) dedicated to bringing easy-to-understand, unbiased information about Israeli politics and the elections to Israel’s Anglos. Don’t misunderstand — I myself have particularly strong views and consider myself to be a loyal right-winger. I could’ve just as easily dedicated myself to helping my preferred party with their English campaigning. But I saw a gap and a need for better access to information for Anglos and I felt strongly that people should be able to step into the voting booth on equal footing. The only way to do that is for everyone to be able to get informed about elections, parties running, and their various platforms.
It seems that I wasn’t far off because we very quickly reached 200 followers and we’re closing in on 400 now. I would see a post on any number of Facebook groups asking where someone could find unbiased information in English about the elections and my page would be mentioned. People reached out expressing their appreciation for addressing this need and for simultaneously bringing to light the fact that Anglos in Israel do in fact exist and would like to be more involved in the election process than they are at present. We started doing events and interviews with candidates from different parties which addressed real policy issues as opposed to just focusing on the Bibi elephant in the room. All of this has resulted in my meeting and connecting with people on all sides of the political spectrum.
People who I might otherwise never have had the opportunity to get to know and hear from. While I consider myself to be fairly well informed, there’s no question that I am far more exposed to right-wing party ads and information and voices than to the center or left-wing. Working on this page and entering the political conversation has exposed me to other ideas and perspectives. While it hasn’t changed my mind on some of the issues or my own beliefs, it has helped me gain a broader understanding of what goes on outside of my right-wing bubble and I can further appreciate the ideas and thoughts of those who don’t necessarily agree with me.
I have had the opportunity to speak with politicians on my side of the aisle and across it. I have met new friends and joined panels with people that I never knew and created connections with people who don’t agree with me. All of this has been done with respect and kindness on all sides. And all of this has been in the name of people from all over the country striving to make a difference and change our country for the better.
I took part in a panel discussion organized by a new friend and journalist, Ittay Flescher. Ittay and I probably disagree on most issues and yet, in the month or so since we’ve met through these discussions, we’ve grown to respect and appreciate each other and our different perspectives. Ittay brought together people who are voting for or representing most of the parties running for Knesset this election to have a soapbox style discussion on their chosen parties. This was a group of 10 or so people who have very strong opinions and clear affiliations. None of them agreed on very much.
There was definitely some crossover here and there but otherwise, everyone had their own agenda and spoke to that. While there were absolutely some moments of heat and intensity, everyone started and ended the conversation laughing with each other. An observer even made a comment in the Zoom chat asking if this was a political discussion or a comedy routine. While we of course have some real issues in this country that need to be addressed and fixed, there’s no reason why those who have opposing views on how to do that can’t also respect and value each other.
For me, my recent activity in these political discussions has also shown that while elections can bring stress and anxiety and anger, they are also a real opportunity to make a change, to express an opinion and have it be taken seriously. It’s a chance to find a way to serve our country and make it better. The real goal and challenge, though, should be to continue these conversations even after elections. Hopefully, we will have a chance to form a stable government after March 23rd. But the work and need for people who really want to make a difference in Israel don’t end with a coalition agreement.
That’s only where it begins. It’s up to us to work together — yes, even with those who we don’t always agree with – to further the conversation. We need to show up, make our voices heard and fight to have the changes we want to see made be addressed and implemented.