|Voting day - Debaird|
For American Jewish voters, the task is even more daunting. For many, the security of Israel – a hot topic these days – is always at the top of their voter’s tip sheet. Even my father, and his father, devout secular Jews who despised political rhetoric and boycotted most electoral debates, voted with an eye toward ensuring Israel’s safety. For my dad, as for many Jews in North America, a vote advocating support for Israel was a vote for plurality in his home country. For my grandfather, who had been raised Orthodox and later defied his father’s religious expectation by refusing to become a rabbi, there was nothing more sacred than representation that assured a Jew’s right to live and worship (or not worship) as he chose. From his vantage point, that could only be achieved by voting for candidates that would assure Israel’s right to exist.
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It’s a problem-solving process that has precedent in the actions of ancient rabbis who debated controversial issues like the rights of the poor to glean the edges of a farmer’s field, or the compassion of treating non-Jews as neighbors with needs and rights. It is guided by what has always been foremost in the Jewish heart: that there is strength in acknowledging the other side, and courage in seeking compromise, even when you believe one side is right.
This year however, it has been difficult to hear the moderate voice in America’s discourse. Calls for conciliation by the president have been mistaken in some cases for apathy or worse, betrayal. And election platforms by opposing candidates that four years ago were considered too extreme are now seen as having merit.
Politicians that appear to quickly and openly endorse Israel over Palestinian calls for recognition now appear more credible to Jewish voters than those who listen to both sides and then openly declare their support to Israel. Even platforms that espouse right-wing values such as upholding Christian prayer in school, opposing gay rights and blocking access to education for children of illegal immigrants now seem preferable over that of a moderate candidate who strives for political consensus.
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It is interesting that Israeli political views appear to be shifting toward the center once again, suggesting that even in a land divided by deep political conflict, the yearning for consensus and mutual respect can be found.
As American Jews, we need to find our center as well. Israel needs our confidence in its future, just as we need Israel’s. Such mutual trust is necessary if we truly value Israel’s security as a nation, and a Jewish homeland.
|The American spirit is strong - Ildar Sagdejev|