What do the Israeli elections have to do with Rosh Hashanah?

Our High Holidays liturgy tells us that on Rosh Hashanah, it is written and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed. Who will live and who will die are not forgone conclusions until the last note of the shofar sounds.

The Israeli general election round II that was held on September 17th also has no foregone conclusion. As the votes are counted and recounted the totals have changed several times and the alliances only added to the confusion. It may take more than the wisdom of Solomon to straighten out this mess.

Does Netanyahu have a mandate to try to form the next government? Maybe today and maybe not tomorrow. Does Gantz and his coalition have the right count? He did yesterday and maybe not today. And what will the kingmaker do? It’s lonely in the opposition.

The questions that most should be asking is what government do the majority of Israelis want and what do they need? The make-up of the next Knesset will have to deal with a great many social issues including the erasure of women from the public space and the Haredi control of marriage — and divorce — conversion and prayer at our holy places.

Israelis on both sides have been marginalized and made to feel that the country does not want them due to the ugliness of the campaigns. This has emboldened some of the worst elements of racism against Arab Israelis, LGBT people, Ethiopian Israelis, and anyone who looks, thinks, or prays differently from what they believe.

A good friend of mine who belongs to Chabad and is one of the most hardworking and kindhearted people I know says that the anti-Haredi nature of the election makes her feel unwanted in Israel. She and her husband and many of the people she knows work, pay taxes, and support the IDF. Things that the Haredi parties fight against.

As a board member of Women of the Wall, and a member of a partnership minyan where women lead services, and layn (read) Torah; I am made to feel unwanted in Israel. The level of violence at the Kotel has reached epic proportions and now there are political groups that have been taking over the mixed prayer space in an attempt to completely blot out pluralistic Jewish prayer.

The long promised Kotel deal has never been implemented and the political religious right has said it never will. The cost of entering the coalition includes codifying the control of religion to the narrowest most stringent rules — Shammai on steroids and not the justice and compassion of Hillel — even if it comes at a cost to their own communities and to the state as a whole.

So as Elul is drawing to a close and the High Holidays approach, there is still time for justice, tolerance, and inclusion to be the way of the state of Israel. Whether there is a unity government forged by President Reuvin Rivlin or if either the right or left prevail, we must have a government where no citizen is unwanted.

There is still time but we need to hurry before the gates close and the book is sealed.

About the Author
Bonnie Ras is a board member of Women of the Wall.
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