Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Israeli Elections Day: The Festival of Freedom

Whether right, left or centre, the one thing all Israelis agree on is that they are happy today is a national holiday. As a religious person, it makes a pleasant change to have a day off that doesn't include biblically-ordained restrictions. As a British person, it seems bizarre to miss a whole day of work for an action that takes a few minutes. But I have come to realise that the reason why we don't work is because today is truly a national holiday.

For most of the campaign, I have imagined that holiday to be somewhat of an extension of Purim. The extravagant warnings of dire consequences of voting for the other side that we constantly hear. The numerous amount of humourous political video clips. Netanyahu's narrative that if we don't vote for him, the Persians will finally succeed in destroying the Jews, who only he can save. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few months of Israeli politics, but I wish it had only remained in the realm of the 'Purim Spiel'.

However as the day approached and the time came to finally decide who I was going to vote for, I realised that Election Day can really be compared to Pesach, the time of our freedom. On Purim, the Jews were bystanders as Mordechai and Esther contrived to save the Jewish people, but on Pesach every family and person made their own contribution to the Exodus by sacrificing the Korban Pesach and painting blood on the door. A small act, and indeed nothing on the scale of Moshe and Aharon's actions - let alone God's - but an act nonetheless. The moment when the people defied their Egyptian taskmasters and followed this mitzvah was when they became a free people, placing their destiny in their own hands.

My individual act of voting may seem a small act, making relatively little impact when cast alone. But as part of a nation, we as a collective are able to choose our own destiny. Today is a modern day Chag Hacherut, festival of freedom. It is unlike other Jewish festivals, both modern and ancient, in one stark way: You have to live in Israel. It is possible to celebrate great historical events and miracles anywhere in the world, but to create the history for future generations, you can only be in this land.

And it was for this purpose that I made Aliyah. When I vote in an Israeli election, I am able to play a part in shaping the future for the world's only Jewish state, and in fact the Jewish people entire. Rather than speculating and analysing from afar, I now have to get off the fence, choose a direction and be prepared to face the consequences. In football terms, it's the difference between being a commentator and a manager. Being a manager is much harder, and forces you to take risks - but that's how success is achieved.

It was only after this realisation that I decided how I would vote. One of my options was to vote for one of the two main parties because Israel would benefit from two-party dominance, and this would assuage the concerns I had in voting that party in. Another option was to vote tactically, based on who I would prefer to be Prime Minister, how the coalition negotiations would pan out and what I think other voters would end up doing on the day. But as much as I believe in the two-party system, and as much as I am fascinated by the coalition permutations to Carling Opta proportions, those shouldn't be reasons why I should vote for a certain party. With one vote, I can't second guess the entire population, and I can't single-handedly change the political system in one day.

Rather, I will vote for the party that I believe has the best vision for what Israel should look like tomorrow, with the desire to work tirelessly towards that goal. After all, that's what I came to the country to do. And as I prepare to place my card in the ballot box, I will for the first time understand the line of the Hatikvah, "To be a free people in our land". Chag Sameach!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Guide to the Persian Elections 2015

It's been a year of turmoil for Persian politics. Following a year of war, internal palace backstabbing and political maneuvering, Persians are once again going to the polls. Here's a short overview of the leading candidates and parties aiming to take control of Persia in the elections taking place in Adar 2015.


Led by Achashveirosh, nicknamed "King Achashveirosh", who is entering his 12th year in charge of the party, the Likud are seen as the most likely party to win the Persian elections. However recently the party has been rocked by an expenses scandal involving Achashveirosh's excessive spending at feasts paid for by taxes which he levied. Achashveirosh's major platform is security, and preventing the Greeks from obtaining a nuclear javelin. However, many people point to the wars, civil unrest and attempted assassinations and question Achashveirosh's security credentials. Despite all this, Achashveirosh's fluent declarations in each people's language and script still make him a strong candidate, and polls show that he is still liked by "most of his brethren".

Persian Union

The newly-formed Persian Union is the main challenger to Achashveirosh for the kingship, and their 'it's us or him' campaign, and calls for a 'revolution' have succeeded in making this a two-horse race around Shushan. The surprise of the campaign was the alliance of two former political rivals, Haman and Vashti, who have committed to sharing the throne in the next term of office should they win the election. The two leaders come from contrasting backgrounds; whereas Haman has always been a rival of Mordechai and a champion of the left, Vashti has had a nomadic career, which started with her being second on Achashveirosh's list, a position which ended when she refused to come to a crucial cabinet meeting and was subsequently sacked by him. Haman's lack of charisma means that he faces a battle to win over the electorate, who regularly make fun of his voice at public events all over the country.

Mordechai Hayehudi

Formerly known as the National Religious Party, the Mordechai Hayehudi party promotes the Jewish people's return to the homeland and is hawkish on many issues of religion and state. It's main platform is that Persia's provincial system does not work, and it wants Shushan to annex two thirds of Persia's 127 provinces and bring them under Persian law. This would mean that controversial laws such as 'making each man dominion over his wife' would be extended, thus placing into question Mordechai's attempts to modernise the party (though this is slightly mitigated by his placing of Esther as number 2 on his list). His publicity stunt of not bowing down to Haman, and social media campaign encouraging others to not bow down to things they don't worship, has elicited criticisms of scaremongering. However Mordechai, who once worked as Chief of Staff of Achashveirosh's office, is increasingly being touted for the top job in Persia.

Yesh Atid

This relatively new party was formed by Bigtan before the last elections, and took the country by storm. Previously a TV show host, Bigtan was famous for his on-screen partnership with Teresh, and the two co-hosted famous shows such as 'Persian Idol' and 'Xerxes Factor', which eventually produced Esther as a celebrity wife for Achashveirosh. Bigtan's political career soured following a fall-out with Achashveirosh, where the latter famously accused Bigtan of trying to mount a coup. The situation escalated when Mordechai told Achashveirosh that Bigtan was preparing an assassination attempt on him, and Achashveirosh subsequently dissolved the government. Disgraced, and the loser of a personal political dual with Mordechai, Bigtan is not expected to win many seats this time around.


Culanu is a new party led by Charvonah, and could be the surprise package of this election. Charvona is seen as a populist, whose main platform is the targeting of rich magnates who inflict evil on the population. His sudden rise to fame came in preventing Haman from destroying the Jewish people by hanging him on the gallows he made for Mordechai. However aides of Achashveirosh are at pains to point out that this policy was only successful due to Achashveirosh's strong leadership and approval of the plan. That being said, it was Charvona who took the credit and will be remembered for good.