I’m an American living in Israel, and today I watched the Presidential inauguration live on C-Span (weeping profusely at all the right moments, as I do), wondering why the hell I’m here.
Tomorrow is election day in Israel. It’s one of the most harrowing, uncertain elections in recent memory. Unlike my firm Democratic roots stateside, I’m firmly undecided in Israel. It’s a strange position to be in. Being “liberal” or “conservative”
doesn’t mean much when there are literally a dozen parties from which to choose, nobody will win a majority, and it will be up to the President to grant coalition-forming power to the party most able to form a working parliament (Knesset). Let the cabinet-bargaining begin. I’m wavering between Meretz and Labor. If it were only a matter of voting my beliefs, it would be Meretz, the unwavering liberal party with human rights at its very core. However, in Israel “making your vote count” OR “not throwing your vote away” often means to vote for the ideologically closest medium-to-large party, helping to put them in a position to get enough seats to form the ruling coalition.
That party this time is Labor. For a long time now it has been almost invisible in government, and now, it’s suddenly stronger, perhaps a real threat to (what used to be center-right) Likud (who now readily form coalitions with ultra right wingers and build new settlements and buy up East Jerusalem and openly threaten Iran). I grew up in a Jewish Labor youth movement. My problem isn’t Labor, most of its ideals are fabulous. I’m just off religion, and would very much like a party that’s doing something about human rights in Israel. The Arab issues, the territories, the settlements, Jerusalem, the immigrants, refugees (legal and illegal), asylum seekers, foreign workers, ignorance, prejudice, and hatred. And of course a party that is not interested in starting WWIII.
It’s baffling. Voting what you believe or voting to enable a party that could potentially topple Likud’s Bibi (Netanyahu). I did the latter last time in 2009 when I voted for Kadima and its leader Tzipi Livni. She didn’t win, and both Meretz and Labor lost major numbers in parliament because so many liberals ran center to Kadima to “make their vote count.” Did it, with such a seat loss?
I think I’ll vote my conscience tomorrow. Politics are best left undisclosed in polite circles. I’ve learned far too much about fellow employees and friends of the family, things that disgust me. Racism is so blatant it doesn’t shock most people. Is it time to go home? I still refer to America as home. Do I miss it so much, see it through such rose colored glasses, because I’m not there? Perhaps. Probably. But there is no beautiful national rhetoric here. No togetherness. No dreaming big dreams. No building the future together. I heard a woman yesterday saying, “I’ll vote for the opposite of what the Arabs want. Anyone they’re for, I’ll be against.” No “We the people.”
Is it possible to love one of your countries more than the other? Is love even necessary? Is absolute loyalty? Is it even possible for a dual citizen? I obviously came here for a reason. Now, I can’t remember what that was. Is that a sign to leave? I’m far from elated at the prospect of tomorrow’s election. I’m expecting disappointment. Do I care enough to participate in the fight when there is no unified vision? I feel most Israelis don’t even care about peace anymore, and for those that do, the realistic prospect of attaining it seems next to impossible. How do we balance being good citizens, acting responsibly, giving of ourselves, with being good TO ourselves and trying to live happy lives?
I’m just going to focus on President Obama’s wonderful speech today, maybe watch some West Wing reruns, and daydream of better times. Twiddling my thumbs uselessly, until tomorrow. At least I get a nationally-sanctioned vacation day – something the USA could actually use.