Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


 As the election campaign here in Israel finally reaches its conclusion, much debris is scattered in its wake. Individuals have been maligned, their lives and livelihood threatened, and in some cases, even their reputations ruined irreparably. Such is the nature today of elections in our so-called advanced Western society. The United States is still suffering from the fallout of the 2016 presidential election that has so polarized the country. Terrible things are said and repeated, most of which bear no resemblance to the truth or even to the advancement of the debate.

The media, in all its branches, is complicit in this since it is always in search of any story that will help feed the never-satisfied belly of the devouring 24-seven news cycle. Journalism has taken a tremendous hit over the past decade and news now is really opinion - and biased opinion at that.
During the election season, all these ills are on constant display. But, also on display, is the basis for the eventual fall of all political leaders – uncontrolled conceit. This is certainly the case regarding many if not even most political leaders and those that desire to be elected or reelected to public office and to gain or maintain their power.
We are witness to how this overreach of arrogance and pride – that leaders can do no wrong and feel themselves to be above the law and moral norms – has played itself out in Israeli society over the decades. A little modesty and restraint would have served those who claim to have the best interests of the public at heart, but who somehow are caught up in legal difficulties and questionable moral behavior.
I feel that it is ironic that the concept of free elections, which is the backbone of a truly democratic society, almost always invites the excesses of hubris. There is no room for the faint of heart in Israeli national elections. Everyone and everything, is fair game for exposure and in most cases exaggeration, during the election season. Very little of this really addresses the issues that truly affect the public or identify the qualities of the people who are engaged in the quest for office and position.
Even though the issues that are raised in all Israeli elections – the Palestinian struggle, the issues of Sabbath observance in public areas, civil marriage and judicial fairness and impartiality – have commanded public attention and have vexed all Israeli elections and leaders since the founding of the state over 70 years ago, those who are campaigning for office somehow promise that they have found the magic bullet that will solve these highly contentious issues and very complex problems.
As a long-time political skeptic, I highly doubt that this is really the case and that the elections will produce leaders who will have very little choice but to continue to muddle along until circumstances and societies truly change. I don't feel this to be pessimism but simply realism. Some problems are not solved by government legislation but rather by the changing circumstances of society itself.
Because of the messianic and utopian nature of the Jewish people, Jews are pretty much political animals. They revel in politics, controversy, opinions and they love elections. That is why we have elections so often here in our great little country. No Israeli government or coalition has ever served the full term for which it was elected. The itch of politicians for higher office or greater power proves to be irresistible… and therefore we are always in a constant election cycle.
This certainly keeps the media occupied but it does very little for the ordinary citizen who wants to get on with his or her life in some degree of security and comfort. Elections cause great excitement but oftentimes really do not harbor change or new solutions. To a certain extent, the election campaign is more important than the result of that election. It is what involves people, creates discussion and helps form public opinion on issues.
I have no way of knowing as to whether all the personal attacks, revelations and accusations actually sway the votes of the electoral public. I suspect that they are not nearly as important as the media that delights in reporting these things thinks that they are. But as this election season ends, one should never despair of the outcome for there is undoubtedly a new election season and campaign just around the corner.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.