God’s baleful blank ballot

Published in The Jerusalem Post, March 5, 2021; and Israel Hayom, March 9, 2021.

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Israel’s repeat, repulsive election campaigns have God at the end of His wits. Might the People of Israel awaken, their purported leaders repent, and a respectable campaign that emphasizes policy and values yet be run? Or may God throw in the towel and cast a ballot of non-confidence?

Cartoon: Biderman (Haaretz)

God could not come to a decision. It wasn’t that He did not know. God knows all. It was that He didn’t want to believe what was happening, even as He watched it all unfold.

These ugly, repeat Israeli election campaigns, God thought to Himself. So much infighting, so much hatred. Tearing themselves apart, these Israeli Jews. Such endless political paralysis. So much wasted time, effort, and money.

Of course, God had long seen it coming. It had begun with an erosion of common values and traditional beliefs, followed by a rejection of shared political and national symbols. And then, gradually, a growing sense of alienation and resentment that one part of the nation came to feel towards the other.

Fanatic clerics, unwilling or unable to articulate the relevance of tradition in the modern world, made things worse. The soothsayers and phony mystics among them dragged believers back into the unenlightened past. Some of them even became conspiracy-minded anti-vaxxers. And when they got involved in politics… oy vey.

Yes, I saw it coming, God thought. My people were led astray. That militantly secularist fringe, rabidly campaigning to deconstruct any residual Jewishness in the only Jewish state on the face of the globe. The sloganeering rang painfully in God’s ears: “We have to stop them…” Them! Which Jews are “them”?

That over preening, super arrogant Supreme Court, imperiously intervening to politically legitimize the worst supporters of Arab terrorism while blocking the candidacy of (admittedly overheated) Jewish zealots.

And worst of all, there were the politicians, those voraciously power-hungry prime ministerial wannabes – hungry enough to employ raw hatred and adopt any negative campaign device to savage the opponent and win another vote. Jewish unity be damned. And each claiming Him for their own: “God is on our side!”

Peace with the Arabs they can promise the electorate, mused a dispirited God to Himself. But harmony among the Jews is not on the agenda.

How quickly they forgot the core teachings of old, God sighed. Do they not remember Rabbi Abba Bar Cahana’s dictum: “Peace among Jews is paramount. For even if Israel worships idols, but nevertheless is bound together by harmony – the Divine Presence dwells among them.”

The Lord toyed with the idea of instigating a little war. That always helped mend things, as Israelis would rally around the flag, forgetting their differences to fight the enemy. But God discarded the idea. He was not sure that even a war would unite the people anymore, and the cost to human life was not justifiable.

At that point, God began to think about packing a bag and taking a vacation. To let His People manage for themselves.

There was not all that much that He needed to take, even after four thousand years. A picture of Abraham making that first crossing into Canaan — that had some sentimental value, and some Biblical chapters: promises to the Children of Israel and the like.

Into His case went a couple of pages by Rabbi A.Y. Kook and a few by David Ben-Gurion. And that magnificent picture of soldiers at the Western Wall in 1967.

Then there was a long list of names of young men and women — religious and secular, European, Middle Eastern, native Israeli — who had in earlier days thought that Israel meant something more than a convenient economic base for business and hi-tech development, and who had been willing to pay for that belief with tears and blood.

True, God did not really need the list, but respect for the sacrifices of the Zionist pioneers made Him feel obliged to take the names with Him.

Into God’s valise would also go some earth of the Land of Israel that hard work had made richer, and the echoes of some folk songs that had been on the lips of so many people 70 years earlier. Songs from a time when His People had believed — all of them, not just the formally religious ones — that they really had brought heaven down to earth.

Ah yes, reminisced the Lord, there was a time when Jews had joined together to do something that mattered beyond their own consumerist desires, income levels, and demands for unrestricted “personal freedoms.”

But still, He debated with Himself whether to make such a radical departure. Twice, God had sent His Children into exile as punishment for their loss of faith. But what degree of faith have they lost, God wondered, that would lead them to exile Him?

“Stop!”, cried the angels. “Israel cannot survive without your Divine Presence. Its people are virtuous, filled with good deeds ‘like a pomegranate’. Do not ascribe the sins of the leaders to the meritorious masses.”

With one foot out the door and tears in his eyes, God hesitated. After all, there were still three weeks left to the election campaign. Perhaps the people would awaken, their purported leaders would repent, and a respectable campaign that emphasized policy and values would yet be run.

After all, He had such high hopes and great plans for His People. Renewing Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land, becoming “Or LaGoyim” (a light unto the nations), developing a society based on charity and lovingkindness, rebuilding the Temple as a global spiritual center in Jerusalem, and more. Could He jettison all these aspirations?

So, God decided to wait. He would tough it out until March 23, just as He had in three previous election campaigns over the past two years. Perhaps His People would have an epiphany. Maybe sanity, probity, and unity would win the day.

God told Himself this: If worst comes to worst and nothing changes for the better, I’ll vote non-confidence in the entire Israeli political game, and on election day drop a blank chit into the ballot box.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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