When a plane begins its final descent before landing, a miniature version of civilization emerges beneath the clouds. From the small, oval window of the plane, the passengers have a panoramic view of the scene below: clear blue swimming pools that fit into the palm of one’s hand, green track fields the size of place mats, and manicured lawns surrounding homes organized in a perfect grid.
However, when the plane finally lands, passengers come face-to-face with an asymmetric reality. From hundreds of feet in the air, the icy sheets covering the roads eluded their sight, and the employees running the airport landing area, now so obvious in their neon uniforms, were invisible. When meeting life at eye level and in real time, everything looks a bit different.
During the six-month period between deciding to make aliyah and boarding the plane to Jerusalem, I remember telling people without any hesitation that this was the natural next step in my life and that the American chapter of my life had come to an end. One month after graduating from college, I said goodbye to my supportive family and friends in New York, and traveled alone to Jerusalem to build a new life on the front line of Jewish history. It was the only adult life I was able to envision for myself.
Of course, reality on the ground is always more nuanced and asymmetrical than a bird’s-eye view. I am not referring to my own personal klitah, or absorption. In the five years since moving to Israel, the twists and turns of my life have far superseded the dreams I arrived here with.
Rather, I am referring to observing the panoramic view of Israel’s political situation from afar. The order of civilization and the proper course of events often seem clear as day from 30,000 feet. This view is at times critically important; anyone living within the conflict, by definition, has a limited perspective. However, it is important for those outside of the country to remember that they, too, have a limited perspective. When asked to reflect upon “the contradictions of Israel’s situation — politically stagnant but culturally efflorescent,” I was deeply surprised. Is that really how we look from afar? Are movement and progress to be measured only by peace treaties signed on the lawn of the White House? Perhaps the panoramic view has blurred the significance of recent events in Israel’s political history.
In recent decades, the phrase “MK” (Member of Knesset) evoked feelings of disappointment and shame. The decision to take a hiatus from one’s career and enter into politics was viewed with more skepticism than pride, since public confidence in politicians has steadily declined. Each party attempted to further its own agenda without demonstrating much ability to effect authentic change or show how its agenda benefited the nation as a collective unit. However, the recent election to the 19th Knesset has imbued the country with a new spirit. While the results of one surprising election cannot cleanse Israeli politics of the mire accumulated over decades, the Knesset — although perhaps now filled with people foreign to politics — has finally been filled with visionaries.
For the first time in my life, I was motivated to sit and watch inaugural speeches given by both new and veteran Knesset members. I was riveted and filled with hope that their political careers will prove as promising as their individual potentials. Hearing MK Ruth Calderon speak about her personal history, her trajectory, and her vision for reacquainting the citizens of Israel with their rich cultural heritage breathed new life into the Zionist spirit, whose voice is too often silenced, both by the opposition and by those who regard it complacently. And Naftali Bennett’s leadership of the Habayit Hayehudi party has placed the emphasis back on the “national” of “national religious,” which had too often been brushed aside by the sectarian battles of the party’s previous leadership. His pairing with Yair Lapid has set a national example of coexistence, and his presence in the coalition may even show the largely secular Israeli public that the national religious sector can critically influence the country’s social and political development for the better.
At the moment, political life here feels anything but stagnant. Strength of character, determination, and commitment to tradition have found their way back into politics. While I do not claim to have any idea how this will impact the future course of events, I have no doubt that this change in the domestic political milieu will influence many layers of Israeli society. Movement is often hard to pinpoint and identify. Those who can feel the gentle breeze of change against their cheek have the responsibility to share it with the rest of the world.email print