As I write this piece, Tuesday’s election in Israel is too close to call. Bibi Netanyahu and Benny Gantz are running neck-and-neck again. This is the second election because Netanyahu could not form a government after the first one in April, though he had a tiny majority of the seats in the 120-seat parliamentary free-for-all.
Why does this election mean a lot to me?
Israel is my country, almost as much as America is.
It was born when I was three, in 1948. Its wars were my wars. Much more than Vietnam, which was my war to fear and despise, Israel’s wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 were the wars I felt in my bones. These wars were the wars where I prayed for victories. These were the wars that absolutely could not be lost, because that would have meant death to the heart and soul of the Jewish people.
I’m sure it is very hard for most people to understand how I feel about Israel – even for many younger Jews today
I am not a Holocaust survivor. I am not the child of a survivor, but I truly identify with their suffering. The passion of the survivors to build something great out of the ashes of their parents and relatives, as well as the passion of the children of the early settlers from Eastern Europe who did not come to America but lived the dream of making something wonderful out of the sand and dirt of the Holy Land, was a feeling I always connected with.
I have always been extremely emotional about Israel. I am sure I have mythologized it since I read Leon Uris’ book Exodus and watched Paul Newman in the movie. My wife and I named our first son Ari, the name of Newman’s character in the movie.
For most of my adult life my biggest charitable contributions have been to support Eretz Yisrael, the Hebrew name for Israel. I have only visited twice, but I think and dream about Israel often.
I am interested in the current election but not excited about it. From a practical standpoint, there is not that much to distinguish between the leaders, Netanyahu and Gantz, on the issues I care so deeply about, except that Gantz is allied with the secular parties.
They are both warriors who achieved their fame and importance through military service. Bibi Netanyahu spent part of his childhood in America and achieved a name partly from the valor of his brother who died on the Entebbe raid to free the Israelis whose plane was hijacked to Uganda.
Benny Gantz was a top general in the Israeli Defense Forces. They both stand for Israeli strength in the face of hundreds of millions of Arabs who hate the tiny Jewish Nation.
Netanyahu has the luster of presiding over the economic stardom of the country in recent years, as a cheerleader of “Startup Nation.” He has also been tarnished by pettiness, corruption, nasty politics, and unholy alliances with ultra-Orthodox religious parties.
Gantz and the opposition coalition have made the election about Bibi, just as the Democrats will make 2020 about Donald Trump, one of Netanyahu’s fans.
I have been listening lately to Steven Pressfield’s stunning book, The Lion’s Gate, about Israel and the 1967 six-day war against the Arabs led by Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Reading about the incredible valor and brilliance of 20-year-old Israel with 2.7 million people fighting alone for survival against the Russian-equipped armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq is inspiring. I know Israel is not pure and unblemished. No country is. But I love it to my core. It is an integral part of my life. I really don’t care who wins the election as long as Israel always wins.
Question: Does Israel mean something to you?