Google Doodle for Israeli elections
Yesterday, President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second and last presidency. Today, Sophia and I voted on our next government here in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to win, with Likud receiving enough votes to form a government, but this may be his last run (for now) as the head of Israel’s government. These two stubborn, intelligent men have some time now (who knows when a Bibi government will fall.. We’ll have a better idea when all the counting is done) to get off their high horses and work together, to better public images of Israel’s and the US’s relationship, to maybe restart the peace process, or, if they keep being pig-headed, keep the status quo. Neither US nor Israeli voters (nor American Jews nor American-Israeli voters) voted solely based on one country’s relationship with the other, but as an American-Israeli, or Israeli-American, or citizen of the world (however you’d choose to call me), I do believe that the States and Israel have a mutually beneficial relationship and I wouldn’t mind it appearing warmer.
Last night, I was sitting around the kitchen table chatting with some people about how we were planning to vote today, and we got to the topic of national anthems. One of my esteemed guests hadn’t seen the campaign video from Balad, an Arab Israeli party that held 3 seats in the 18th Knesset.
In a radio commercial that was initially banned by the Central Elections Committee, Chair of Yisrael Beitenu Avigdor Lieberman is parodied and is shown singing Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva, to an Arabic tune. After watching it, my Haifati friend announced “I don’t understand why it’s so controversial. I think it’s actually not so bad! The music’s almost decent.” Which I sort of agree with.
But juxtaposed with the myriad ways Americans sing our national anthem, it seemed especially silly that this came up as a controversy at all.
A little bit country with Lady Antebellum:
And the rendition usually referred to as the best performance of the Star Spangled Banner ever, Whitney Houston
I’m not sure what could be more anti-establishment and anti-government than the Star Spangled Banner being played on electric guitar at Woodstock, so maybe that contributed to my lack of surprise concerning the Balad video, and actually felt as though it made a solid point (one of Balad’s platform points being that Israel needs to be a country for all its citizens) even if I don’t think the party is all that effective or honest. I still sort of like the ad, though.
I’m interested in seeing the fall-out here, obviously. It looks as though, even though everyone complained there was no one to vote for, Israelis are turning up at the voting booths in record numbers. That’s very cool. I wonder if there’s a way to see a breakdown of votes by region, since Israel doesn’t have any sort of district system. Maybe the Israel Democracy Institute will provide us with more fun infographics in the coming days 😀
But back to my kitchen table –
National anthems are supposed to be about hope and about the best of the country. My Haifati friend pointed out that maybe Israel’s anthem is a bit outdated, a long and ongoing debate within Israeli political circles. I postured that the U.S.’s is maybe even more so. Israel’s anthem refers to a hope of two thousand years that was fulfilled, which is something that can never change. Ours is about some battle in 1814. Though the words are moving, the version sung at baseball games and national events only asks if the place is still around (Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave | O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?), no reference to where we came from or where we want to go.
I’m no post-nationalism advocate, and I know in a lot of ways I’m not so into the Socialist theory (I’d rather not be taxed as much as I am here in Israel). I prefer a smaller, in my opinion less intrusive government, something I really wish Republicans in the States would get back to, instead of allowing the party to devolve into the shambles it currently finds itself in. But we all need something to look to, ideals put to words to lift us when things are bad. That’s what a national anthem is meant to fulfill. It’s supposed to be a rallying cry. But then no nation is so simple as to be easily summarized into a few stanzas. But maybe national anthems, especially in contemporary times in which we see nations last much longer than they did since the beginning of the modern era (for us Americans, that usually means the end of the 15th century), shouldn’t be static. The United States is seeing a louder minority voting population. Israel is beginning to understand that it can’t keep all its different populations (Haredi, Arab, secular) in their own respective corners, and the number who showed up to the polls today shows that the public is engaged. A democracy changes for its electorate as time goes by; that’s why democratic styles of government can weather significant changes in demographics or political thought.
I have no simple answer. But I am glad that Israel’s voting public showed up in force. I can’t want for the results 🙂
UPDATE: Whoa, yes – breakdown of votes by region can be found here, the Central Election Committee’s website, which also provides excel sheets of the results down to the polling station. Awesome. Maybe some translation work is in order. But we’ll have to wait til all results come in.