Sahar Sazgar, UJIA’s Manchester shaliach is preparing to vote for a third time in March, but warns against voter complacency.
The last time I voted in the elections at the Israeli Embassy in London, I was sure that it would be the last time that I would be exercising my democratic privilege – as a shaliach (emissary) abroad – in order to impact the political situation in Israel. I was full of hope that this was it, since I had voted already six months previously, but that turned out to be a vote which did not have any effect. This time, my vote would surely be a significant, influencing factor, in stabilising the status of the legislating body in Jerusalem.
But here I am, having to take a deep breath, stand up straight, and vote once again in the hope that this time (a third time) will be the last time.
Many Israelis are asking themselves if it is actually really worth it. Millions of shekels from public funds are being used in order to determine who will be the next leader of the only democracy in the Middle East. Money which could have been used for the health service, to improve the roads, to balance the budget with its deficit, is again being spent on a basic democratic decision.
And, who can promise us that this will be the last time? But I think that this symbolises something of beauty in our small state – the only state in the Middle East in which each citizen has the democratic right to influence what is happening. Until that decision is unambiguous, every single vote is imperative.
Our president Ruby Rivlin, who has continually called in his special way, for unity, recently asked on the citizens of Israel “not to reject democracy”. He is so right. Israeli citizens must go out to vote. It is a privilege. It is a duty. And it is an imperative lesson for the coming generations.
In this instance, the state of Israel, a ‘light to the nations’, may be judged by the countries of the world from two different perspectives. The first perspective may be, in a dismissive fashion, asking why we cannot arrive at a simple decision – after all we have just seen elections in Britain, which were determined the first-time round. The second perspective may be, and to which only a few may subscribe, that only a true democracy could permit itself to continually facilitate the democratic rights of all its citizens through democratically voting.
I am sure that holding elections for the third time is a call to the citizens of Israel to unite, and I am not talking about political unity. It is a call for unity among the citizens of the state. The time has come to lick our wounds and repair the divides among us. To solve the differences, to consider one another and to understand that everyone has a different opinion and different needs. Every citizen in the state of Israel, is part of a beautiful mosaic, full of colours and textures.
This is what makes our state so special.