Voting For Israel. Voting For Me.

This year, for the first time, I voted in the obsessively monitored Israeli elections. In such a small country, with so much at stake, every voice matters. In order to ensure a voter turnout rate as high as possible, Election Day is also a vacation day. So after casting my ballot, I went to the beach in Tel Aviv.

I had no idea who I was going to vote for, and I was honestly rather disgusted with the way grown men and women who supposedly represent Israeli society were treating each other. I also don’t really enjoy politics; and I think that the owner of the makolet at which I shop would do a great job of running the country.

Israel is governed by a parliamentary system. In other words, a group of politicians run on a party platform. Their goal is to secure enough votes for the party to reach a threshold whereby they will secure seats in the Israeli Knesset. Seats are divvied up based on the number of votes each party received. The party with the most votes then needs to form a ruling coalition with other parties in the Knesset ultimately consisting of at least half the number of seats in the Knesset. The idea is that the ruling coalition will have a gamut of people who specialize in specific issues that affect the lives of every day citizens.

Israel is experienced very differently than how it is portrayed in world media. While security is our biggest concern, there are so many equally important issues that require attention. From skyrocketing housing prices to environmental worries; from an under representation of Haredi women in politics to a very real concern of how to integrate Israeli Arabs into society, (and how to help them see that integration is in their best interests); from “de-monoplizing” monopolies and improving transportation, Israel is a country that doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Adjusting to life in Israel as a new American immigrant is a challenge. The thing with which I have most difficulty is the clan-like mentality that is common to the Middle East. It is, in my opinion, a true deterrent to progress in this country. Israelis form groups, subgroups, sub-subgroups and so forth. The people in this tiny country are as hugely diverse as the topography on which all these different people live.

The problem is that when you are so focused on the exclusivity of your clan, it becomes difficult to see the commonality that you share with others. Most rational people here want peace, want to finish the month, and want to grow old with dignity. As it is in most countries, politicians usually ruin politics and focus on everything that tears apart a population.

I really had no idea who to vote for. I did research and until I arrived at the polls, I was unsure. I cast my vote on the issue that was most important to me and the reason I moved here: a safe, Jewish home.

I hope, however, that the 20th Knesset will really tackle prime problems in Israel. I hope that they’ll realize that we as a nation have endured too much wandering as nomads for thousands of years, and that the Jewish people need a viable Jewish country in the Land of Israel. I hope that Israelis realize that that’s our commonality and the reason we sacrifice so much to live and build here.

I have had a lot of “first times” in this process of Aliyah. The truth is that while I was excited to vote, I was even more grateful to look back at how far, with G-d’s help, I have come in my Aliyah. Last year at this time, I didn’t foresee myself participating as an Israeli in elections.

Israel is a work in progress. It’s a country that I love more than I can adequately and verbally describe. I hope that our leaders can love this country as much as I do and find commonalities between their differences to do what’s best for Israel and Israelis.