Monday, January 27, 2003

The Choice is Ours

The Choice is Ours
January 27, 2003


So, tomorrow are the elections. According to political commentators and, even without them, the general feeling in the air, is that this campaign has been relatively painless. As Kol Yisrael analyst Hanan Crystal said this morning, there’s no hate between the parties, it’s as if everyone knew the results before the game began, it’s just a question of what will be the score.

This surely is different from other elections we’ve witnessed in the past ten years – the Rabin-Shamir fiasco, bringing us Oslo, the Netanyahu-Peres cliffhanger, the Barak-Netanyahu turnaround, and finally, the return of the right with Sharon’s trampling of Ehud Barak, only two years ago.

This election really did seem to be over before it began. An Arik win seemed a foregone conclusion, so, excepting two weeks of media-setup suspense over the Sharon loan, only apathy has abounded.

In my eyes, not rightly so.

In Hebrew, the word for elections is “bechirot,” stemming from the word l’vchor, which literally means, ‘to choose.’  And choose we must!

The choice we must make is not political, rather it is, as I see it, an affirmation, or perhaps a reaffirmation.

Speaking to groups and individuals, here and abroad, one question is a constant: What is your solution to today’s problems? What would you do if you could do anything you want?

My response is consistent, unwavering: First things first. We must all understand, those of us in Israel, and Jews around the world, that Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael. No question marks, no maybes, no doubts – Eretz Yisrael, all of Eretz Yisrael, be it Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hebron, Bethlehem, Beit El, Ramallah or Ramla, all of it, all of Eretz Yisrael, belongs to Am Yisrael. As long as we don’t understand that, or are unwilling to recognize this fact, it is very difficult, if not down right impossible to proceed. One side, the other side, our enemy, definitively proclaims: “The land is ours.” The voice coming from Israel, stuttering, speaking apologetically, with severe reservations, peeps out, “Maybe it is ours, maybe not.” And of course, there are those who yell out, loud and clear, “no it’s not ours, it’s theirs.”

Those of us, who disagree, also shouting out loud, only in the exact opposite direction, are pushed into a corner and told to shut up, because we are the fanatic fringe element who does not represent anyone.

What does this have to do with elections? Very simply, when we go l’vchor, to choose, what must we choose?  In all actuality we must decide whether to choose ourselves, to be ourselves, or to choose not to be ourselves, to try and change our essential being. In other words, are we for ourselves or are we against ourselves?

Unfortunately, much of the Israeli populace, as well as the Jewish community around the globe, has chosen to ignore or forget who we really are, and what we are, as Jews, living in our Land, living as a Jew should, proudly identifying with our religion, our culture, our homeland.

Here in Israel, this is reflected at the polls. How so?
It is unnecessary to delve into great detail about each of the political parties. There is only one party that need be singled out, exemplifying the problematic of Israeli society. That party is called Shinui, meaning change. What changes does Shinui espouse?

According to their official platform, “Shinui fights against religious coercion and for a secular state with room for all opinions and beliefs. Extortion and exploitation of the public treasury for religious purposes have to end. The ultra-Orthodox establishment is a threat to the orderly administration of a free society and to the individual freedom that characterizes a democratic state.” They conclude by saying, “We seek to separate state and religion, while preserving the country's Zionist character

Party leader, Tommy Lapid, has built a political party, which, in any other country, would be labeled ‘anti-Semitic.’ There is no other word for his attitude and that of his party. He has announced that he will never sit in the same government with ‘ultra-religious’ parties. Shinui’s political stance reeks of abhorrence to Judaism. Yet, according to the latest polls, Shinui will receive between 15 to 18 mandates, making it the second or third largest party in the Knesset.

Lapid’s opinions concerning Yesha and the ‘peace process’ have a way of shifting with the wind. Officially, Lapid could be considered ‘center-right.’ He professes to believe in the right to live in parts of Judea and Samaria. However, his party list is almost entirely left wing, with opinions close to Labor.

The appearance of such a political party is very disturbing, in and of itself. The fact that they are receiving such widespread support is even more alarming. Not every Jew is religious, and religious coercion is illegitimate. But how is it that so many Israelis are not willing to respect other Jews who practice traditions thousands of years old, believing them to be G-d given commandments? This seems to be the same type of ‘sinat-hinam’ or ‘free hate’ spoken about by our Sages in the Talmud, leading to the destruction of the Second Temple and the two thousand year old exile from Eretz Yisrael.

True, tomorrow we are going to the polls. But the real elections we are facing, as I said earlier, in Hebrew, bechirot, or choice, is a decision whether or not we choose to be ourselves, or whether we choose to flee from ourselves. Are we willing to look ourselves in the eye and see who we really are, or will we attempt to disguise ourselves as somebody else? The question isn’t Sharon or Mitzna. The choice is to stand up and be the real Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, or to pretend that we are something else.

The choice is ours.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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