Elections! As I write this newsletter, the US is going to the polls for what is considered an important test of Trump’s approval rating in the country. The entire Congress is up for election as well as one-third of the Senate.
I returned from a visit to the US recently and I was saddened by the extreme divide that the country is experiencing right now. There is so much hatred in the air, directed not only at political leaders but also at the press and at ordinary individuals. The atmosphere has become such that political discussions are rarely civil and the language and lack of respect that each side demonstrates to the other is unfortunate. I hope and pray that America will figure out a way to soften the tensions and work together for the good of the country.
As Republicans battle Democrats for control of the Legislative Branch, Israel is looking at these elections as well. It is no secret that Trump has been unusually supportive of Israel in these past two years and that his natural tendency is pro-Israel. Republican representatives and senators have also usually been pro-Israel although there have also been some outstanding pro-Israel Democratic legislators as well. We cannot begin to comment nor understand the ins and outs of domestic issues in these American elections, but I can turn to you, our American friends, and ask that you consider Israel when casting your vote today.
But I want to share with you an election experience we had in Israel last week of a totally different kind. Last Tuesday, every municipality in Israel held its elections. In past years, different cities and regions held elections on different days and different years. A few years ago, the Knesset established a uniform day for municipal elections when every city, town and regional authority in the entire country will go to the polls. And this year, for the first time ever, election day was a holiday — school and work were off for the day. The reason for the holidays was to encourage voter participation.
Typically, national elections in Israel are a very hot affair. The issues are life-threatening as security concerns usually take precedence over other issues in determining the way a citizen will vote. Although issues such as religion, economics, the environment and education are also of great concern to the Israeli public and are addressed by the politicians, when push comes to shove, people choose the leader that they trust will protect them. — the leader whose vision for peace and security, war and defense, fits their own.
On a daily basis, however, the municipal elections have a greater effect on the individual. While all schools come under the national Education Ministry, municipal authorities have great influence on the extras that schools provide to their children — the enrichment programs, the support staff, the facilities—these are all the purview of the municipality. And so much more — cultural activities, development, commercial areas.
In Judea and Samaria, we are particularly sensitive to the issue of growing and expanding our communities. Unlike anywhere else in Israel, building permits require the authorization of the prime minister himself, and the decision to issue these permits are more often than not bound by diplomatic considerations that have nothing to do with supply and demand or with the good of the particular community. But it is the mayor who applies for those permits and who ensures that the permits are utilized properly, that the community promotes itself so that people around the country are interested in living there. And that issue, more than any other, determines how the local citizens of Judea and Samaria vote.
In my own community, our mayor, Yigal Lahav ran for re-election after just one term in office. He had been a member of the town council for decades but only became mayor five years ago. And the growth and development that Karnei Shomron has seen during that time is nothing short of a miracle. Of course, we are grateful first and foremost to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who issued hundreds of new building permits in Karnei Shomron in the past few years. But Karnei Shomron has turned into one of the most attractive and popular communities in Samaria, and that is thanks to Yigal.
I have him to thank for my own two sons who are building houses here. Both are already living in the community (one in my house!) as they wait for their houses to be completed. My husband and I love nothing better than having our grandchildren over and we eagerly await the birth of our sixth grandchild who will be in the same class as his first cousin, born just a few weeks ago. And both will grow up in Karnei Shomron!
On election day, the weather was glorious. After relaxing in the house, we went to vote in the local school and then drove out of the community to visit with our grandchildren who live in Jerusalem and Efrat. There were election signs everywhere and an excitement in the air. People enjoyed the day as they voted for the person they believed would improve their lives in the next five years.
I am a real political animal and follow the national political scene with great interest and can analyze the various developments with ease. But sometimes, it is so nice to vote for someone in your neighborhood who will grow and lead your community, without worrying about life and death issues. Although a mayor who strengthens a community in Samaria, truly makes a difference for all of Israel.