Upcoming Israeli elections

Tomorrow is election day in Israel.

Last week I got an email from a community organization strongly advocating that we vote for the United Torah Judaism (UTJ)/Gimmel party in the upcoming elections in Israel.  I read it thoroughly but wasn’t convinced.

Then I got a call from a volunteer telling me that that I should vote for Gimmel; I listened but remained noncommital – I didn’t like being asked to commit verbally to voting for any party.  To my American sensibilities, this was a breach of boundaries.  Then dh got a call on Friday morning, in which he was pressured to say that he would vote Gimmel.   I had seen some advertising of some other parties and one particular party appealed to me, but I needed to do some more reading and find out what each party actually stood for.  Last night dh mentioned that he’d probably vote Gimmel and I was dumbfounded – I looked at him in disbelief and asked, “Why?”  He hadn’t had a chance to do any research on the parties, but when I gave him some introductory information and he continued with his own research, he quickly changed his mind.

We were married on Israeli election day in 1992, the first year that Gimmel was a party.  This was our party, this was how our entire peer group voted – we never thought to ask what the platform was because it was obvious that this was the party for the serious supporters of Torah.  There were Gimmel election slips that at some point were thrown onto the dance floor at our wedding, and the crowd went wild when dh danced holding one up.  That was then.  :)

What is UTJ/Gimmel?  This is the yeshivish charedi ashkenazi party, and a vote for Gimmel is portrayed as a vote in alignment with the Torah leaders of the generation.  This year there was a proclamation that those who are working who vote for Gimmel will have a share in the Torah learned by all of the learning men who are being supported by the party, that this is .  This was supposedly stated by a very prominent Torah leader, though I have to admit to a certain degree of skepticism when it comes to rabbinical proclamations – I believe many of the the stated positions of the elderly Torah leaders are too often manipulated or outright lied about.  This is considered by some to be a brilliant move but I found the Yissachar/Zevulun reference disturbing – as if the Torah learning of someone working isn’t as valuable as the Torah learning of someone in kollel.

I looked at the Gimmel platform to see how they described their party, and though their theme song is catchy, it was clear to me that this isn’t the party that represents our interests.  Here in Israel, our family would be labeled as ‘working charedim’ – and the interests of working charedim are often different from those in full-time learning.  For example, we want our boys to learn secular subjects in high school and train for a career, and assume they will serve in the army.  The representatives of Gimmel are against all of these things.

So who to vote for?  Unlike in the US when there are two major parties and then the independent, here in Israel there are a lot of parties.  A lot.  34, to be exact.  That meant doing enough reading to narrow down the choices and hopefully find one that we actually agree with.   Until recently, I was strongly leaning towards HaBayit HaYehudi, but am now shifting to Am Shalem.  Am Shalem (link to good article detailing their positions) is a new party and seems to best share our values and politics, though if it will be able to garner enough votes for a seat in the Knesset is still unknown.  I’m willing to take the chance that I’m throwing away my vote to help bring a new and positive voice to the Knesset; if enough others who share these beliefs are willing to do the same, Am Shalem (letter Tzadi) will be voted in.

If you’re living in Israel and are totally bewildered about the Israeli election process, take heart.  Once you start to read it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it seems.  Here are a couple of places where you can begin your reading.  Once you get started, you’ll begin to find lots more available if you’re interested.

Jerusalem Post – A political guide for the perplexed – this is okay, not so thorough and I wouldn’t make any decisions based on the information in this, but it’s a starting point.

The 2013 Knesset Elections – this is a helpful post about elections that has some good links at the bottom, one of which will lead you to a more detailed description than above of the party platforms.

A vote is a very personal thing, and there are good aspects to most political parties.  The tricky part is to know what you believe in and then find the party that advocates for that.


13 thoughts on “Upcoming Israeli elections

  1. Pingback: devoramakesaliyah
  2. Interesting. I would have pegged you as a Bennet/Bayit Yehudi supporter.
    I didnt know who on earth to vote for, as none represent what I want completely, and was torn between Gimel, Bayit Yehudi, and Otzma Liyisrael. In the end, I just did a goral and it came out for otzma liyisrael 4/6 times, so I went with them. It should all work out for the best…

    I wouldnt vote for a party that didnt have much chance of making it into the knesset, feels like a wasted vote to me.

  3. Can I ask one other question- you consider yourselves working chareidim, as do I, but do you think working chareidim is the ideal way and think all but a few chareidim should go out to work and the army, and that guys in kollel are a chillul hashem? Because thats why I wouldnt vote amsalem- while my husband works and my kids may or may not do the army- their choice-, I fully support the right of chareidim to chose to learn and not do the army and dont support anyone trying to get charedim to change their way of life. I assumed you felt the same, but I guess not?

    1. This is a very nuanced issue and I’m uncomfortable with the black and white way the question is phrased. My husband was in kollel for ten years and my oldest son definitely is on track for kollel – I would never call kollel a chillul Hashem.

      Please be careful about making assumptions about my position on issues that I haven’t expressly stated. Though I said there are a number of aspects of the Am Shalem platform that resonated with me, that doesn’t mean that every statement that comes from the mouth of the head of the party expresses my sentiments accurately!

      1. Sorry you felt judged. I didn’t assume that that was your position- I actually was sure that it was otherwise. The only thing I knew about Am Shalem’s platform was that kollel=bad, lets cancel the whole thing. I’m totally ignorant about the rest of his platform, other than allowing conversions more easily. Just knowing the little I did about Am Shalem, I was just surprised to hear someone obviously not anti kollel voted for them. I probably should have looked into the rest of their platform.

  4. I’m happy you researched your options even though my support lies elsewhere seeing as Im not charedi voting blindly one has to live with the consequences. Last time my vote didn’t count but this time I narrowed my choices down and Im proud of Am Israel…We really do have a future now!

  5. you’ve gotta love that they just about lynch families who have internet in israel, black mark your kids for “good” schools if you have internet openly, and then send out emails-via the internet- asking you to vote for the chareidi party… priceless…

    1. I hesitated commenting on this post precisely because anything even remotely political unfortunately tends to elicit some really hateful comments. I think Aviva was just explaining her personal decision not inviting Hareidi bashing. For many years the Hareidi community in israel has felt itself under siege and therefore some of their positions that seem very extreme and strange from the outside actually make sense if you understand their mindset. Otzama L’Yisrael is the party that speaks to me politically but I thought Naftali Bennet’s HaBayit HaYehudi message of unity was a very beautiful and timely one. The political reality we find ourselves in today is very complex and therefore especially this time around Gimmel felt they really needed to get the vote out, in order to be able to advocate for their constituency in the coming Knesset more effectively. I don’t know about Karmiel but where I live, the gimmel campaign was extremely well and sensitively organized and they made it explicitly clear they considered themselves advocates for all hareidim – learning, working, whatever. What we need is more unity not more mudslinging. Yes, there are real problems, yes we at times have very strong disagreements with each other and it’s extremely painful but in the end of the day we are all in it together, we shouldn’t forget that. Hashem should only bless us all with worthy leaders and make things good for the Jewish people wherever we are but especially here in Eretz Yisrael and there should at last be love between Jews not hatred and bitterness!

  6. Ronit, I didn’t feel judged. I just didn’t want to be misunderstood as advocating for a position that isn’t mine. While I have concerns about widespread kollel as an ideal and think that families would benefit if men were prepared to be the breadwinners, I don’t advocate an extreme anti-kollel position.

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