Why I Am Worried About the Israeli Elections
Lately I find myself singing the Kingston Trio’s Worried Song: “It takes a worried man to sing a worried song, I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.”
On the eve of Israel’s fateful election to form the 20th Knesset I am a worried man but unlike the song, I’m terrified that my worry will not abate any time soon. If the polls are any true indication, Israel may be looking at left-wing leadership for the first time in nearly 15 years. By now, I’m sure you’ve read enough articles, op-eds, and blogs, and watched enough interviews, campaign commercials and news reports, or even listened to the phone conferences and analyses of what may happen if that does turn out to be the case and what the potential fallout could be.
The potential dangers and threats – re: Iran, the Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, Europe, the UN, the ICC and BDS – are worrisome to say the least. But my worry tonight is very personal. In fact, it doesn’t even go beyond the four walls of my house (and I’m not speaking about the cost of housing or cottage cheese). As I sit and write these words, my 16-year-old son is asleep in his bed and I worry how this election, in which he can’t even vote, will affect him in the next couple of years.
War in Israel doesn’t discriminate between right and left or Labor and Likud. Every Israeli government since before 1948 has had to deal with war and terror. I’d be naive to expect the next government to be able to get through its term unscathed. But my worry goes a bit deeper – to the soul of my soon-to-be Israeli soldier son.
This past summer, my son joined me on a ride across Israel as we delivered our and the AFL supporters’ messages of hope and encouragement to the families of the three kidnapped boys. By the time we got home, we had learned of their brutal murder. With that horrific news, after weeks of national heart-wrenching hoping and praying, we experienced the most dreadful day I have ever known. As deeply as I hurt, watching my children grieve, (especially my son, who was the same age as the boys and barely one degree of separation from them in this tiny Jewish community known as Israel) was the saddest moment of my life.
Shortly thereafter, I began to see to a change in him. Not a change per se, but perhaps more of a deep recognition and understanding that he was next in line to be called up to defend the Jewish people and the Jewish state. We made aliyah when he was 7 years old and I don’t know how much he had thought about his impending IDF service, but now it was clear to me that his focus had shifted. There was no fear, but instead a quiet determination, conviction and sense of pride. I truly believe that the strength of the Israeli soldier does not only come from his rifle, his equipment and his training, but also from a deep sense of Jewish belonging and connection to our people’s story. This is what I was beginning to see in my son.
The realness of our existence in this land was terrifyingly apparent this past summer during the Gaza Operation “Tzuk Eitan.” While we were running to shelters as thousands of Hamas’ rockets were fired at us, my two nephews (my son’s cousins) were serving deep inside Gaza as soldiers in the Paratroopers and Armored divisions. To a 16-year-old boy whose raw emotions were stretched to their limits only weeks earlier, these kinds of experiences provide harsh impressions of what lies ahead for a young Israeli boy.
A week after Passover my son’s Israeli Army journey will begin when he goes to Jerusalem for his first interview with the IDF. The next 3-4 years of his life from that moment on will have an IDF focus. I never want him, or any of our precious soldiers – our boys and girls – to lose that determination, that conviction and that overwhelming pride of being an Israeli soldier defending the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland.
The government that comes to power will be the government that he will serve during that time. Will the leadership be one of strength and conviction or one of capitulation and compromise? I have full faith and confidence that a right-leaning coalition led by Prime Minister Netanyahu would be leadership he could serve with pride. As things look now, I cannot say I feel the same way for an Israeli government led by Herzog and Livni.
And so, I worry.
I worry for Israel.
I worry for the Jewish people.
I worry for our brave, precious soldiers.
I worry for my son and his precious Jewish neshama, his soul.
Let’s hope and pray that whatever the outcome, Israel’s strength will lead to its secure and peaceful existence.