Election time is here again. The great moment when we see democracy in action and the people – the ultimate sovereign – are able to choose leaders of the nation for the next four years. America did it and now it’s our turn here in the Holy Land. But even though all democratic elections look somewhat alike, the rules here are different. Life in Israel runs on a two-tiered track – an Earthly Road and a Divine Highway. The Earthly Road ostensibly allows us room to plan and maneuver, but the Divine Plan controls our destination.
I must admit that at the moment the possible outcome of our election does not look terribly promising. In fact, one might get the impression that it looks downright bad – more like a comedy of errors than a well-designed national agenda. None of the parties and none of the candidates fill us with confidence. Most continue to blindly repeat past errors and mantras. Most suffer from a frightening lack of common sense, an overabundance of ego, and a severe lack of faith. Yet I am not particularly discouraged. In fact, I’m actually quite optimistic.
Elections in Eretz Yisrael, you see, are a matter of theology. While democracy is by far still the best system around, and elections are to democracy as coffee is to cake, we all know that highly undesirable results can result even from wonderful things like free and democratic elections. (Note: Both Hitler and Hamas came to power via free, democratic elections.) The freedom to choose is a weighty freedom indeed. And in a world like ours where public relation firms dictate national agendas, where the media is carefully orchestrated, and where even candidates for office are made up to look like what they are not, it’s hard to know what we are voting for or what we will get. Often, it’s even hard to know what we really need or want.
We find ourselves facing lots of pictures – a graying, wise looking Netanyahu; a chic, determined Livni; a smiling but hard hitting Barak; an aggressive, confidant Lieberman; a righteous Yishai; a bearded, idealistic, ardent “Ketzaleh”; a solid, conservative, sedate Orlev and a slew of others. But is anyone what they appear to be? Will they really attempt to do the things they say they will do? How strong or independent are they? How honest? How anxious to hang onto the reins of power, come what may? How large is their ego? How wise, or compassionate, or Jewish is their soul? Who knows?
We don’t know, but fortunately, we have a built in safety net. Our two-tiered track is our salvation. Although we expect our government to think rationally and to map out a sensible plan of action, we are living in the most irrational part of the world, surrounded by enemies, afloat in a sea of hatred and anti-semitism. To make things even more complex, we are dealing with a holy but stiff-necked people known for their stubborn individuality. All of this together make rational thinking and sensible plans of action hard to come by. Who knows what tomorrow (or today, for that matter) will bring, let alone plan anything on a more long-term basis. In other words, the wisest thing we can do is to do our earthly best and then humbly bow our heads and allow ourselves to be guided along that second, Divine track. If we are subject to forces beyond our control, they at least are under direct, Divine control.
Living in Eretz Yisrael means living under the ever-watchful eye of G-d. Nor is this a poetic, Biblical quote or an electioneering slogan. It is a simple truth. There is no way for a Jew to live here without being utterly cognizant of the fact that G-d is running our show. We may live in an almah d’shakra – a world of falsehood, but we also live in a world of Emuna – Faith and miracles and it’s wonderfully comforting.
On a “practical, realistic” level, it is difficult to see any great hope for change in the upcoming election. Each of the major parties will give up, give in, give away things which G-d fearing Jews hold dear. None will be strong enough to withstand the immense pressures the world will put on us. At the slightest show of strength, we are automatically accused of disproportionate response at best and Nazi-like war crimes at worst. Never was there a nation so concerned with human life as we were in the short-lived war in Gaza. A lot of good it did us. We were universally portrayed as vicious, aggressive, Nazi-like Israelis killing poor, innocent Palestinians. It will be hard, if not impossible, for any of our major political parties and many of our civilians to withstand such worldwide pressure and censure.
During a previous war, a granddaughter, then age seven, asked in all innocence, “Why does everyone hate us?” The question tore at my grandmotherly heart. Why indeed? Because that’s the way of the world, no matter how civilized the veneer. Sin’at Esav – the hatred of Esau for Jacob – is a fact of life and will end only with the coming of the Messiah. Meanwhile, we have elections.
So whom shall we elect? Which party gives voice to our concerns and beliefs? The voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esav. Perhaps our main ammunition is our Voice. Although sorely outnumbered and out powered, our Truth is an awesome weapon. Our leaders (and candidates) – both political and religious – should use it. Let them speak up and say in no uncertain terms: The Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. It is our G-d given heritage. The Bible is our deed of ownership. Israel is not merely a place of refuge. Judea and Samaria and the Golan are not merely a security belt. We are not colonizers or occupiers searching to invent a new nation in a strange land. We claim this Land as our eternal, G-d given gift and heritage. Period. We may believe this, but do we say it loud and clear?
Ah, you say, but who will listen? That sounds so extreme, so fundamentalist, so messianic (as if believing in and waiting for Mashiach were an un-Jewish thing to do). Who even cares? Ah, I respond, Truth is a mighty weapon. It is also the best election slogan a party can use. The U.N. and the E.U. will undoubtedly disregard our claim but they cannot refute it. And the truth has a strange way of getting under one’s skin.
Perhaps most important of all, our own brethren – the Jews of Israel and the world – must hear this message. If the Arabs can claim the Holy Land in the name of Islam, why should an Israeli government hesitate to claim Eretz Yisrael in the name of Torah? Who are we afraid of alienating?
A party that runs on a platform of Jewish Truth is a party which may not win control of the government but whose message will resound deeply in the hearts of our fellow Jews. Much has transpired here in the past sixty years. The communists, the socialists and the rigid, extreme left wing have all but evaporated. In their stead remain many good, anxious, confused Jews who are searching for meaning and who want the best for the country. They are just not sure how to find and achieve it. At the very least, they deserve to hear the undiluted truth about Torah, Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael without always looking over their shoulder and worrying about sounding too religious, or impractical, or concerned with what the world will think. It is our duty to articulate a platform of Truth which speaks of Jewish redemption, of G-dliness and peace. There is no other solution on the political horizon.
A basic belief in our theology is that when we do our part, our hishtadlut, in the lower world, we activate Divine assistance in the upper spheres. Military strength is one form of hishtadlut; elections are another. Human action is necessary in all areas of life, but it is only the beginning. The Divine is the deciding force, the end result of actions. This is true Jewish Realism. In a world where we are so small, so vulnerable, so hated, what other power do we have? What weaponry? What greater strength can we muster?
So we return to the Voice. Not only the voice of the people at the ballot box, but the Voice of Jacob. Ours is the ability and the responsibility to be G-d’s shofar and to proclaim His Truth, even if it does not always sound sufficiently practical to other ears. Will people listen? Some will, some won’t. But Chazal said long ago, “The work is not yours to complete; nor are you free to ignore it.” We must fulfill our obligations and speak our truths. We have blathered enough. We may run the elections, but it is G-d, after all, who is running the Show. Until such time as the House of David is re-established, we remain firm believers in democracy and majority rule. There is no better system out there. But our system must be based on, and our candidates clearly state, our eternal truths.
So let us have our elections, knowing full well that the coming government will be faulty, will undoubtedly make unfortunate statements and poor decisions. But let us also know and acknowledge that despite our seemingly unending mistakes, we are not the real movers. There is Someone up there who is guiding the hand of the voter and of history, unceasingly moving us forward, step by step, towards Redemption and a better, G-dly world. And the day will come when we will see that….Behold, it is very good.
© 2009 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish children’s books including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.