It always starts with a dream of a magical beach on a tropical island with curved palm trees on the waterline and coconuts falling from trees onto the pristine sand and crystal clear blue water all the way to the horizon. It is no coincidence that so many of us go to the beach on Election Day. We are record-breaking escapists; maybe it is a necessity in the reality that we live in: A constant threat of annihilation and 50,000 rockets aimed at Israeli cities at any given time.
Obviously the desire to escape into normalcy and peace is only a partial and insufficient explanation for what happened in the election. But a small part of the public — big enough when it comes to near equality between the Left and Right blocs — let this escapist desire dictate their votes. It doesn't fully explain the entire phenomenon, but it certainly reflects a significant part of it.
Yesh Atid (There is a Future) Chairman Yair Lapid was wise enough to combine a calm persona with a domestic agenda. And most importantly, without explicitly saying a single word about it, he convinced the Israeli public that he was not dealing in escapism, but rather the necessary steps to rectify a faulty reality. And so, maybe this Left-Right tie and political embarrassment will give rise to a historic opportunity. Perhaps the blow that the Right sustained, and the Left's inability to claim the leadership, have together created an opportunity to rectify some wrongs.
To clarify the advantages of escapism, let us visit an urban legend originating in Los Angeles. The protagonist of this story is a Mexican construction worker. Every day, on his lunch break, the construction worker used to sit with his American buddy and together they would eat whatever food they had packed. The American noticed that every day his Mexican friend would bring a meat dish with a particularly appetizing aroma.
"What is that you eat every day?" he finally asked one day.
"Roasted duck," the Mexican answered. "My wife prepares it for me every day."
"Wow," the American replied. "How can you afford to eat duck every day?"
"We can't," said the Mexican. "My wife hunts them."
"Where does she hunt?" asked the American.
"She catches them every time they pass through our yard and meow," said the Mexican.
Many ultra-Orthodox leaders admit — usually in exchange for a pledge that they won't be quoted as saying it — that the current situation, in terms of military service and unemployment, is unbearable. It is taking a toll on the ultra-Orthodox themselves. There have been instances in the past when ultra-Orthodox dealmakers asked secular politicians to rectify the situation, begging them to understand when they simultaneously publicly condemn efforts to do as they wish.
A Likud-led coalition including Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi could, possibly, legislate historic measures in this area. If the handling of the issue is to the point, without excessive insults, at least not beyond the accepted norms of rudeness (the ultra-Orthodox papers tend to describe initiatives of this kind by comparing them to Pharaoh's decrees and to persecution by the Czar. We can live with this type of mentally disturbed behavior) well, then, we may have ourselves an opportunity borne out of chaos.
To demonstrate this type of opportunity that rises from crisis, let us visit an incident that occurred in the Romanian city of Cluj at the beginning of the last century. The city was known for its center for gifted students.
When the school ran out of money, the rabbi considered printing his books containing new ideas about the Torah and sending his students out to sell them to Jews. The profits would go into the school's coffers.
The books were printed, and the students went to Jews' houses, door to door, but with little success.
"One day, a student named Yankale Abramovich approached the rabbi and asked to be given some books to sell. At first the rabbi refused because of Yankale's slow speech and understanding, owing to a defect in his head. The only reason Yankale was kept at the school was as a form of charity for his poor family. But Yankale pleaded with the rabbi again and again until he acquiesced and gave him some books.
To everyone's surprise, Yankale managed to sell more books than all the other students put together. When the rabbi was told that this was no fluke, and that it kept happening day after day, Yankale was summoned and asked to reveal his secret.
Speaking very slowly, as he always did, Yankale told the rabbi: "I don't know, they just buy from me."
The rabbi thought for a moment and then asked Yankale: "Tell me exactly what you say when you enter a Jews' home."
Yankale again answered slowly, as was his habit: "I say 'I have books with new ideas on the Torah. Would you like to buy them or would you rather I sit here with you and read the entire book to you?'"
Why were Shas and Kadima optimistic up until the last minute? Ahhh. That's obvious. They heard that there was a high voter turnout in the prisons.
Two days before Israel went to the polls, the rebbe of the Satmar sect, the best friend of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrived in Israel. He spoke at a demonstration in Jerusalem and urged his followers to avoid participating in the Zionist state's election. The Zionist state's police force secured the event.
Why was security even necessary? Because another ultra-Orthodox sect had threatened the rebbe's life. This raises the question: Was it not the perfect time for the State of Israel to adopt neutrality?
Once. Only once, let it happen. Let the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem summon the French ambassador and reprimand him. Just once.
A week ago, the French army invaded Mali, an African nation. France is waging battles there, far from the cradle of their ancient forefathers.
It is unclear how many civilians have been killed so far as a result of French aggression. There are varying reports. That is why we will focus on only three victims — children who frantically tried to escape the French army's bombing. It was a merciless bombing by French fighter jets. Several civilians were killed. The children were trying to run out of the town to a nearby river. But the pilots (or should I say "war criminals") managed to strike them, and three were killed (or should I say "massacred").
What will the medals that these pilots receive look like? Like three children holding hands?
Once. Only once. The foreign minister was supposed to summon the French ambassador to his office and protest the massacre of children in northern Mali. Once. Just once. Present him with photos of the children bearing their names. One time Israel should have issued a condemnation of disproportionate French aggression. One time to hear the foreign minister announce, with a grave expression, that Israel views the French invasion and the bombing of civilians as a violent response that serves to aggravate the tension. Violence doesn't solve anything. Oh yes, and that the government of Israel demands that the French launch peace negotiations and resolve the issues peacefully.
Let it happen one time. Only once.
One more thing
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas, ruled this week that voters who vote for Habyait Hayehudi aren't Jewish. However, several of Israel's most important rabbis recently signed a call to vote for Habayit Hayehudi. Assuming that these rabbis voted for the party they endorsed, according to Yosef they are not Jewish.
Now let's say that these rabbis convert to Judaism, and that their conversions are supervised by Rabbi Haim Amsalem (who broke away from Shas). Will they be recognized as Jews by the Shas racists — the same racists who ran the "1-800-conversion" ads?