Never has there been such a disparity between print and the world the printed letters purport to describe. In the newspapers -- and on Facebook, Twitter, etc. -- we've been treated to nouns of desperation. This election in Israel, we've heard, is one of "hopelessness," "gloom" and "despair" -- and all this before the elections even took place!
The New York Times was "yawning" at the elections, quoting Yossi Klein Halevi who tells us "Israeli society is in a state of despair." Really? What about the months of debate, the newly formed parties, the almost constant campaigning, the exposes? Speaking of which, even Abu Mazen has joined in, uncovering ties between Zionist Jews and Nazis in 1930s -- and he discovered all this just days before the process that legitimizes our democracy. Oh the despair!
Which is strange, since before sitting down at the cafe where I write this, distinctly un-Nazi-looking young Zionists (I presume them to be Zionists, but Israelis might be more accurate) were raising their glasses and saying "Happy holiday!" One of the young women at the table modified for clarity -- "The democracy holiday," in case someone was wondering if it weren't Tu B'Shvat that somehow slipped in again without anyone noticing.
The streets are alive. At the school where I sealed my envelope, boys and girls who had made cookies and cakes were selling them to raise money for their classes. Outside the school all the parties were represented -- the reds of the socialist Arab party, the centrist blues-and-whites, the greens of the...eh...greens. The streets are packed -- it's a national holiday -- people on bikes, walking, in cars at slow speeds, going to vote before they head to the beach for a day that has one foot in February and the other in July.
And yet... the papers are in their states of despair, the Facebook pages are weeping? Why?
It seems because each of those who complains or laments has not yet seen his or her vision of the utopic Israel appear as if magic. Never mind that this country has improved drastically over the years, that despite the cliche of the "rise of the Israeli right" today's right-wing politicians are willing to make concessions that the most dovish left-wing leader of yesteryear would never dream of. (See: Yitzhak Rabin speaking about the notion of dividing Jerusalem).
We are still voting. We have not elected demagogues -- to the chagrin of the yawning newspapers who seem, by the panting pace of their criticism of Israel, to want nothing more. One may dislike our leaders, but here were are voting them in or out. The power resides with the people.
Those who came out today to vote, to make their mark on this country in the way they see fit -- as even the Arab League urged Israel's Arab citizens to do -- should feel free to log onto Facebook tomorrow or sit down and pen an op-ed and complain or weep bitterly -- for they have done their duty. They've voiced something, they have not negated themselves, their country, and the meaning of democracy nihilistically.
Today, though, we should celebrate. It's a bright day -- for Israel and for the world. Democracy survives, and advances. Not one thing, not just French or American, but a changing thing, a thing that seeks political determination by those who have the most to lose from it.
It would be great here to intone that with the elections, we all win, no matter who is declared winner of the elections. But it's not true. Some will lose -- not just the politicians in the race, but the beliefs and ideas of their supporters. They will not be in power, whoever they may be. But rather than signifying the end of the process, that is the process.
Those who find themselves dismayed by the choice of others, as many are today, should bear this in mind. Not to temper their bitterness, but to remember that giving up on the process because they don't like its momentary outcome is everything that democracy is not. So at least for this one moment, when any outcome is still possible, let's hope they join in the celebration by casting their vote.
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