Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Election Day. Again.

Benny Gantz came to visit yesterday. Israel's Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense stopped by my company's Passover toast as he campaigned one day ahead of Israel's elections, the fourth time we've gone to the polls in two years. Gantz was once head of the largest political party in Israel, the great hope to replace Netanyahu as prime minister. Today Gantz's Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party is not even guaranteed a place in the next Knesset.

To say that I am disillusioned with Gantz is an understatement. I believe he is an honest, well-intentioned man but also a naïve, inexperienced politician who fell into Netanyahu's trap. He was warned, but he thought he could save the country. Netanyahu outplayed him at every turn and Gantz became a political laughing stock. Although a majority of Israelis believe that Netanyahu is personally responsible for the country's woes, and has led us to new elections because of his desire to avoid going to trial on charges of corruption, it is Gantz who will pay the political price.

I am very pessimistic about today's elections. I fear that Israel will soon see the establishment of its most extreme, right-wing government ever. An extremist political party that calls for the expulsion of Israeli Arabs from the country is bound to be a partner in the next coalition. The future of Israel's judicial system is at stake. And a corrupt political leader, whose time to leave office is well overdue, will continue to be in charge of our country.

I have never wavered from my support of Meretz, a left-wing, social-democratic and green political party that has maintained its values and principles throughout the years. In today's elections, Meretz is fighting for its political life. Like Gantz's party, Meretz may not make it into the next Knesset.

Hopefully, I will be proven wrong. Maybe the opposition parties will join forces to oust Netanyahu. Maybe Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa'ar, and Naftali Bennett will put their personal egos and political differences aside and jointly lead us to a better future. This would be the best result of the country's fourth elections in two years.

Today I will cast my vote as one of over 6 million Israeli citizens eligible to partake in the most important part of our country's democratic process. 

Passover, the holiday of freedom is just four days away. May we all be free men and women in the coming year!


Related Articles:

Political Leaders Behaving Badly

Taxi Politics (short story)

Why I'm voting Meretz, again

Friday, March 12, 2021

Review of ‘City of a Thousand Gates’ by Rebecca Sacks

Vera is a German journalist trying to sell stories about Israel and the Palestinian territories. Hamid is a first-year student at Bethlehem University. Ori, from Gush Etzion, is serving in the Israeli army. Emily, a Jewish American mother married to an Israeli animator, lives in Jerusalem. Mai is a Palestinian woman who studies with Hamid in Bethlehem. Miriam, Ori’s mother, gives religious instructions to young brides.

There is a large cast of characters in City of a Thousand Gates by Rebecca Sacks (HarperCollins, February 2021), and they live in close proximity to one another. The narrative follows their lives as they interact, although they rarely do. For the most part, the ensemble cast members avoid any contact with each other.

For Israelis and Palestinians alike, terror and tragedy are always present. On one side, a fourteen-year-old girl has been stabbed to death in her home in an Israeli settlement. At about the same time, a fourteen-year-old Arab boy has been beaten into a coma by an angry mob of Israeli teenagers.

These events, and how the many protagonists deal with their aftermath, are at the heart of this thought-provoking novel.

As the narrative follows the lives of Vera, Hamid, Emily, and the others, the reader becomes privy to their innermost thoughts, their desires, and their fears. Sometimes this exposure to their private lives becomes a bit too personal for comfort. The occasional explicit passage about sexual acts and fantasies distracts from the narrative and is not necessary for understanding the characters.

The most climatic moment of the novel comes not at its conclusion, but rather in its middle. It’s an explosive incident that draws the cast closer together, yet at the same time it drives them further apart than ever before.

For readers, the underlying message in the compelling, parallel stories of the novel, is that we know little about those who live on the other side of the fences and walls separating us. In City of a Thousand Gates, the author has given us glimpses of the other side. The interlocking tales may be fiction, but at their core is the reality of our lives.

Rebecca Sacks graduated from the Programs in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. In 2019, she received a Canada Council for the Arts grant, as well as the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundations Henfield Prize for fiction. She has been awarded fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and the Mellon-Sawyer Documenting War Seminar Series. After graduating from Dartmouth College, she worked for several years at Vanity Fair before moving to Israel, where she received a masters in Jewish Studies. She is a citizen of Canada, the United States, and Israel. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Running for Charity

I participated in a charity race last week, raising funds for Multiple Sclerosis care and research at Hadassah Hospital. The 10-kilometer run was at Park Adulam and I had a good result - 1:00:55, a pace of 06:05 per kilometer.

The race was a private event, organized by Jay's Athletes, a sports club for youth groups in Beit Shemesh. Most of the participants in the races (half marathon, 10 kilometers, 5 kilometers, and 2 kilometers) were school children. In the 10 kilometer event, I competed against teenagers! Still, my result placed me in 30th place out of 48 participants.

I hadn't competed in a race since the Jerusalem Marathon two years ago, Last month I ran in the digital version of the Tel Aviv Marathon, but I ran it alone, on Neve Ilan.

When you run with others, there is always someone just ahead of you, making you want to catch up, or at least keep pace with them. Hearing footsteps behind you also encourages you to run faster.

It was nice running in the countryside near Park Adulam, the morning cool and the air particularly fresh after some rainy days. There was one stretch of the 10 kilometer route that was, for me, a steep ascent. I ended up walking a bit, but I more than made up for this by running fast on the downhill and level parts of the course. In fact, my pace surprised me and I was quite pleased with my results.

I am happy that I participated in the race, and that I helped raise funds for a good cause. Now as my body recuperates from the physical efforts of the run, I am looking for my next challenge!