Tag Archives: Middle East

Of False Alarms, Horns, and Code Reds

26 Feb
Español: Uno alarma de incendio Wheelock MT-24...

Photographed by Ben Schumin . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Already in this space I have documented the Israeli attitude of “we know best” and the chutzpa that is ingrained in most members of society. Perhaps socially people are invested in each other in a way that is not found elsewhere, which is why parents receive advice about their children from strangers, the next fellow in line at the bank asks if you have withdrawn enough money, and the post office incident earlier this year. What I still do not understand however, is that why when the fire alarm goes off do Israelis continue their activities? Shouldn’t they be concerned about each other, why does the post office chutzpa transfer to evacuating a potentially burning building? Oh right, Israelis know if there is actually a fire or not.

Well documented were the sirens that sounded in November as Israel scurried for cover during Operation Pillar of Defense. With Code Red sirens sounding regularly, you might think that there is a certain sensitivity to such alarms. Well, we recently had a test of the Code Red system, which was apparently was intended for educational institutions. I am not entirely sure what that means since the sound waves generally carry to a variety of institutions, but it was no doubt an important test. When the alarm sounded, I was in class in yeshiva, we had no clue whether or not it was a drill so we headed for a shielded area, where upon we accessed the internet via our 3G, and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed a test. Meanwhile in the beit midrash, nobody moved, they knew better, they were also mostly all Israelis at that point (most of the Anglos were in class). Coincidence? I think not!

Car horns! Come on! It’s almost like when a car purchase is made in this country that the first, and maybe only, part of the car that is tested is the horn. Dear Israeli Brothers and Sisters, if traffic is jammed, laying on the horn for a minute or more will not cause any vehicles to miraculously begin moving! Granted, honking is probably better than other expressions of road rage, like fire arm usage and throwing tacks at tires. Nevertheless here is the enduring question, what is it about these loud noises, some of which could be indicative of impending danger, that Israelis seem to know what’s really going on?


Israeli Election Observations

23 Jan

באנו לשנות

Just over four years ago a self-proclaimed “kid with a funny name,” shocked the political world and was elected 44th president of the United States. Voters were galvanized by his message of hope amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Voter turnout was remarkably high, especially among young and first-time voters. Promises were made about post-partisanship, working together with those willing to compromise, and reformation of the healthcare and financial systems. Regardless of whether or not the promises were kept, and regardless of who agrees or disagrees with the policy decisions, nobody could deny the significance of that election day.

A day after that president was sworn in for a second term, an election was held in a land two oceans away. An election was held in land with deeply serious security concerns, in a land divided by partisanship. An election was held in a land that while democratic does not spread equally the burden of that democracy among its citizens, in a land with dire needs of education reform and new economic policies. In that election a former television personality and actor who ran for office whilst promising hope and change shocked the political world by earning 19 seats in the parliamentary body, the Israeli Knesset. Yair Lapid, the chairman of the year-old and self-founded Yesh Atid celebrated his triumph on election night, having thwarted the predictions of pollsters and pundits who prognosticated that the Israel’s newest attempt at a true centrist party would receive a maximum of 10 mandates. You can imagine the celebration at the Yesh Atid headquarters when they were informed of having nearly doubled the projections. I am happy to report that it is the party of change and hope, and not the parties of fear and hate that received my vote. My decision was complex, but I dropped my ballot into the box without reservation.

So why Yesh Atid? Why would I vote for a secular party? Why would I vote for a party who does not make settlements a priority?

Because neither of those items are as important as the social and economic issues facing the State of Israel, a sentiment shared by hundreds of thousands. Granted I have only been, on paper, an Israeli since August. I am not yet burdened by the need to provide for a family, purchase food, send children to school, or make car payments. However in talking to friends with resumes of Israeli citizenship that spans decades, the fact is that the cost of living for the middle class continues to rise. The school system is in dire need of overhaul. And army service must be a responsibility that is shared by all citizens. What about the security issues? I have also voted for a party that hopes to move Israel back to the negotiating table, with whom we will negotiate is a separate discussion altogether, a discussion for another day. But since there appears to be a stalemate on that front, I was willing to table the issue while Israel puts things right at home, only a strong Israel can make a strong peace.

But wouldn’t this be accomplished by voting for one of the left-wing parties? No. This is a party made up of men and women who, although lacking in governing experience, are intellectually sound and diverse in their opinions. As Yair Lapid said recently, everybody in the party agrees on 80% of the issues, and the other 20% can be worked out by good faith negotiation, a skill that will be necessary as the new coalition is built. There are rabbis, men, women, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, the first Ethiopian born MK will be seated with Yesh Atid, as will the first U.S. born MK in 30 years. There are children of immigrants who can appreciate what it means to make aliyah, professors from Israel’s top universities, there are former mayors and police officials, as well as a former head of the Shin Bet.

Wednesday evening the chair of another party offered Lapid the opportunity to join an obstructionist bloc, of which Yesh Atid would be the largest party, to oppose the coalition being formed by the Prime Minister. Out of respect for his constituency and his fellow citizens, Lapid declined the offer, noting instead that the people have made their choice clear by exercising their right to vote, and he plans to work within the guidelines set forth by the election results. Yesh Atid’s combination of new faces is indicative of the need to break from special interests, corporate tycoons, and obstructionist politics, it demonstrates that there is indeed a moderate center in the State of Israel. Just as that young President said on his election night with regard to the American republic being more than a collection of red states and blue states, no longer will  the State of Israel be a country of Right and Left, but rather a unified State where the interests of a broadly defined center take the political stage.