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Nov. 21, 2019: A nation on hold

The phrase “for the first time in Israel’s political history” begins to wear thin, but nevertheless, is still true.

Once again, no candidate was able to form a coalition, and following 21-day grace period in which last-minute attempts were made to save the country from the turmoil it’s in, Israel will most likely be heading to a third round of elections in one year. It’s unprecedented, frustrating, incredibly disappointing. During the next 21 days, a majority of 61 serving members of parliament may ask President Rivlin to appoint as prime minister any member of Knesset including those candidates who have already failed to be elected in previous rounds.

As a reminder, on April 9, 2019, the people of Israel elected the 21st Knesset. Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to produce a government, the 21st Knesset, also known as the shortest-lived Knesset, voted to dissolve itself, triggering new elections on September 17, 2019.

Once again, opposite of the people’s will, Israel found itself in the midst of stormy, raging elections, only to discover that this second round produced nothing but growing animosity, increased hostility, and great disappointment from the State’s leaders and their inability to transcend personal interest and egos, to do what’s right for the people, and for the Jewish State.

And now, for the third time in the span of a year, we may face another round of elections. It’s not just a waste of time and resources; it’s evidence of how Israel’s leaders are removed from the people, representing only their personal interests, leading the state to a gloomy chapter of politics, and crippling the state’s ability to fully function.

It’s a sad day today in Israel. This evening, adding to these unprecedented times, attorney general Dr. Avichai Mandelblit recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on fraud, breach of trust, and bribery charges in three separate cases. Netanyahu is expected to respond shortly to the attorney general’s recommendation to indict. Though Netanyahu will not be compelled by law to step down immediately, the recommendation will certainly harden the opposition’s stance.

How does a state with a transitional government really function? Well, not great. Most budgetary decisions can’t pass, leaving many governmental employees with no salaries for months, major governmental bodies having to dismiss employees due to frozen financial resources, upcoming reforms on hold, planned initiatives tabled, and all together, a disturbing state of a country on hold.

But as I often do, I see the sunshine through the clouds, a sign for optimism and reasons for hope, this time coming from across the ocean, 7,400 miles away, found at the great Jewish community of Palo Alto, California.

I was privileged to be among 1,000 people from across North America and Israel, spending a day together deliberating, learning, sharing and most of all, celebrating Jewish peoplehood at its best.

Zionism 3.0, the fifth annual conference remains North America’s largest conversation about Diaspora Jewry and Israel, led by the Oshman Family JCC.

The conference titled “1 People, 2 Centers, 3 Opinions” was presented in reference to the zeitgeist of the current state of Jewish history and Zionism, where for the first time Israel is a strong sovereign state alongside a thriving, flourishing, Jewish community of North America. Together, Israel and North America,  have earned this great moment in Jewish history, we are equally vested in the outcomes of both communities, and we can deliberate on the essence of our unique bond. Now is the moment to immerse us in the complex and fascinating conversations concerning Jewish peoplehood, shared vision, shared cause, and shared hopes.

Hopes for Israel to continue to be the strong sovereign Jewish state that it is, to fulfill the moniker “Start Up Nation” , and for Israel, together with the vibrant, creative Jewish community of North America, to be the “light unto the nations” we are called on to be.

Elections for the 23rd Knesset would likely take place in early March.

Looming over the entire process is the past months’ polluted atmosphere.

Dry, desert-like winds are blowing in Jerusalem, the rain we so badly long for is late this year, watering dry lands elsewhere. Leaving us here desperate for fresh air, eager for tranquility, the serenity that will wrap us with its grace and kindness, allow us to be genuinely good to each other, force our leaders to end this mess they created, and restore the trust in our political system.

The next few months will certainly be interesting, I can only hope for them to be better, to heal our fractured society, to spread hope, and again, to be what we truly are, the “light unto the nations”.

Shabbat shalom,

Leah Garber
Vice President, Israel Engagement, Director, JCC Association Center for Israel Engagement








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