March 12, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
The British writer Charles Moore once described Israel as “a noisy democracy.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored this same point – what he called the “rambunctious” nature of Israeli politics – when he addressed the U.S. Congress in 2011: “You think you’re tough…on one another here in Congress?” he chided, good-naturedly. “Come spend a day in the Knesset [Israel’s parliament]. Be my guest!”
Seldom has the “noisy” nature of Israel’s democracy been more apparent than it is now, as the Jewish state gears up for elections on Tuesday, March 17. Campaign signs seem to be posted on every public space, and the television and radio are dominated by political ads.
Sometimes this public conversation can become overly partisan and bitter, and shed more heat than light – Americans know this as well as anyone. But, though it can be an annoyance, I look at this as a sign of overall societal strength. Such passionate public dialogue can only flourish in democracies like Israel or the U.S. Under totalitarian regimes, where speech and action are tightly regulated and restricted, there is silence.
Participation in the political process is, of course, important. History is full of examples of good leaders bringing a measure of peace and prosperity to their people, just as it is full of examples of bad leaders creating problems for their people, and even driving nations into ruin. We have a duty to make responsible, informed political choices, and to vote not just according to our interests, but with our consciences.
But we must never forget the words of the Bible: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save…Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Psalm 146: 3, 5). I don’t believe this verse encourages cynical mistrust of all those in power as much as it admonishes us that divine power is infinitely greater than human power. Often, we look to our worldly leaders for every solution, while forgetting the One who is all-powerful; we look at the loss by the political candidate we favor as the ultimate catastrophe, while forgetting that God is still sovereign over the world and all that is in it.
As Israelis prepare to head to the polls – and as Americans begin to prepare for their own elections in 2016 – let us all give thanks to God for the blessing of living under democratic political systems. There are so many today living under oppressive rule who do not enjoy that blessing. And, at the same time, never forget that political systems rise and fall like all works of man, and that true freedom is found in acting in faith and courage, trusting in God, and acknowledging His sovereignty and dominion over our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President