History & Politics Repeat

A note of thanks goes out to all of you who wrote, or called and left messages of concern, because it had been a week since I had posted to the blog.

Michael and I were hit with a pretty bad stomach bug last weekend. But it was the local elections here in Ma’aleh Adumim that held me back from blogging. I attended a “Meet the Candidates Night” sponsored by the Jerusalem Post that the current mayor didn’t feel was worth his time to show up for – or send a representative to, had meetings over coffee with those “in-the-know”, and struck up conversations on the street in an effort to determine which candidate was deserving of my all-important vote. Yes, I’m one of those fools who still believe that every vote counts – and hopes that the ballots will be counted in an ethical manner.

Not having a personal relationship with either of the mayoral candidates made it easy to base my decision on justifiable facts. Decision made. Having lost the U.S. Presidential election the previous week, I was fired me up to make sure that at least my local candidate won! I spent many hours challenging people on the local chat list with my perception of the facts, nudging people to get out and vote, etc.

Election Day arrived. We were told not to bother showing up at the polls when they open at 7 AM because nothing ever starts on time in Israel. Michael’s ulpan in Jerusalem was closed to classes because its a polling station. So the ulpan director arranged for the entire ulpan – 3 busloads of people from Russian, French and English speaking countries – to take a trip up north to Caesarea, Rothschild Park in Zichron Yaakov and the Binyamina Winery. Yisrael only has school until 12:30 on Tuesdays – and only ulpan that day anyway – so we pulled him out to spend the day exploring the country. I had actually expected the tour to take place in Hebrew since it was an ulpan event and figured Yisrael would receive an adult dose for the day. I was wrong. They separated us into three buses of like-speaking people with a tour guide who spoke our language.

It was a blast meeting people from all over the world that day, sharing stories – and food! The sites were beautiful, as is most of this country – dirty Arab areas excluded. The one that impressed me most was Caesaria. Our informative tour guide’s repetitions of Caesarea’s stormy history:

  • Caesarea port was built by the Phoenicians around 300 B.C.E.
  • Captured by the Hasmonean kingdom (Jews) around 90 B.C.E. who went on to build up the Jewish city for two generations, until…
  • The Roman conquest in 63 B.C.E.
  • In 22 B.C.E. King Herod (a Jew) began construction of a deep sea harbor and erected markets, roads, baths, temples, and luxurious buildings. He also hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions.
  • The Byzantine (Roman Empire) took possession during the Middle Ages and the used it in a fashion similar to King Herod, adding their own artistic flair to the architecture.
  • The area south of Caesarea was farmed during the early Arabian period (632 C.E. to 1099 C.E.) until the Crusaders wreaked destruction in the 11th century.
  • The Crusaders captured Caesarea during the First Crusade, pillaged the city and slaughtered its residents.
  • In the 13th century, the French King, Louis IV fortified the city
  • Shortly after, the Arab Sultan Baybars captured and destroyed Caesarea.
  • Caesarea lay in ruins until the 19th century when the Circassians attempted to claim the land.
  • 1884 Muslims from Bosnia built a small fishing village on the ruins of the Crusader fortress on the coast. Many of the village’s 1148 inhabitants left before 1948 because a railway was built bypassing the port, ruining their livelihood.
  • In 1948 Jewish forces conquered Caesarea and eventually began the process of rebuilding with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild.

Do you notice the pattern? Aggressive and power-hungry societies destroy and peace-loving societies build. Which society will take care of the Holy land in the way that God intended – the Jews who turned deserted barren land into a thriving country responsible for the latest technologies, a variety of educational institutions, culture, a strong economy, etc. or the Arab society that destroyed the homes and greenhouses that Jews built into an oasis in Gush Katif and turned Gaza into a cesspool? It is our responsibility to spread the truth to the world. Or maybe it’s too late, read Rabbi Kahana’s commentary.

So what happened with the election?
We arrived back in Ma’aleh Adumim around 8:30 PM and managed to convince two people on the bus, who hadn’t planned to vote, to join us at the polling station and exercise their rights.

I wish I had taken pictures because if you haven’t voted in Israel before, you would be amused by the system. First of all, there was only one voting booth.

  1. They take your ID
  2. They locate your name on a list and cross it off using a ruler
  3. You receive two envelopes – one white, one yellow
  4. You enter the voting booth – a table with a 3-sided partition for privacy. Look down and you’ll see a compartmentalized box containing yellow and white pieces of paper with the candidate names or 2 character party designation
  5. Select the yellow slip of paper with the mayoral candidate’s name of your choice and place it in the corresponding yellow envelope
  6. Select the white piece of paper that has the two-letter code for the City Council slate of people you want to win and place it in the white envelope. You can’t vote for individual council members. As opposed to the system familiar to US Citizens, Israel’s system is not a “vote for an individual” system. Rather, you vote for a list (a party or slate), and the list gets a proportionate amount of members of the body being elected. For example, we were voting for a Council made up of 15 members. So, if 11,000 voters actually vote, each seat is worth about 730 votes. If a list gets 2300 votes, they win 3 Council seats.
  7. Take the envelopes to the box in front of the registration desk and slip them in the slot
  8. Retrieve your ID and leave

When I plugged in my laptop Wednesday morning anxious to find out who won, I blew a fuse – literally! The power strip popped and turned black and everything shut down – the entire apartment. No problem, or so I thought, I went out in the hall and flipped the breaker. No power. Fortunately my landlady was home and fixed it on the main box. By then it was time to take Yisrael & Mandy to ulpan and then off to the grocery store so I didn’t find out until late morning that the current mayor won again and the Council doesn’t look much different than the last one. I’ve never met this man, but I had to wonder after 19 years in office what would he have done for a living if he didn’t win? What are his qualifications? And why have so many projects been started, but not completed?

It looks like it’s time to rejuvenate my involvement in grassroots efforts. I figured there was no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, so I contacted my friend Darhon in New York (who had worked on the NYS Neighborhood Based Alliance program with me) and asked her to get me a copy of the Strategic Neighborhood Action Plan we wrote.

And now you know why you didn’t hear from me for a week! I’ll bet you’re sorry you asked 🙂


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