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My Son’s First Election

My 7-year-old told me to vote for the party that ‘gives the most peace,’ but there were none on offer in Israel’s election

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An Israeli woman and her children at a voting booth at a polling station in East Jerusalem on January 22, 2013. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

We ended up going to vote in the morning. We’d planned to do it in the afternoon, after a visit to Grandma. But Lev, our 7-year-old son, was so excited and impatient that I suggested to my wife that we go early in the morning and get it over with. So we set out at 7, and as we walked in the still-cold street, I recalled the first election I went to with my parents.

It was after the Yom Kippur War. We went together, but they didn’t make a big deal of it. They took me because they didn’t have a babysitter, or something. I was proud of them when we went behind the curtain together. They seemed to be taking the whole thing seriously, searching patiently for the right ballot and putting it in the envelope. I could see that they were trying to choose what would be best for our country, for my future. And I knew that there was no one else in the world who knew how to vote better than my mother and father. I didn’t know then that, within three years, Israel would win the Miss Universe pageant, the European basketball championship, and the Eurovision Song Contest. That we’d free the Entebbe hostages in a daring operation. I didn’t know any of that at the time, but the smell of a rosy future was in the air. And when my parents dropped their envelopes into the ballot box, I knew we were one step closer to that future.

The feeling is completely different at the 2013 elections. The Iranian threat looms large, the international isolation Israel has brought on itself by making inflammatory decisions like the one to expand settlement building, or to attack the Turkish flotilla, is only growing worse. And it’s recently come to light that the country’s deficit is actually 40 billion shekels, not 20 billion, as the Treasury Minister promised us. But despite all those existential problems, the people seem to be totally indifferent to these elections. Our neighborhood friends seemed more anxious about the results of the Master Chef finale than about this sleepy election. It’s as if our fate has already been sealed, and electing a prime minister is like choosing the captain of the Titanic after it has already struck the iceberg: The ship’s filling with water and it’s starting to list, so what does it really matter who’s at the wheel?

“A Strong Prime Minister–A Strong Israel,” Netanyahu’s campaign slogan is plastered on a billboard we pass on the way. Not “A Smart Prime Minister” or an honorable one, or a good one. Just a strong one. Without hope, but with the clearly implied promise of another round of violence on the way.

In the makeshift poll located in a nearby elementary school, I search all my pockets for my identity card, and for the first time, Lev asks what party I’m voting for. I ask him which party he thinks I should give my vote to, and after thinking for a second, he shoots back at me: “The one that gives the most peace.”

“That sounds like a great way to go,” I tell him, “except that, I’m sorry to say, almost none of the parties in this election are giving peace or even the hope of it.” Lev thinks a while longer and says that if that’s the case, maybe I should vote for the party that gives the most money. I try to think of one like that—a party that gives money to everyone, not just to the people who are rich to begin with, or to the ultra-Orthodox, or the settlers. Lev picks up on my frustrated expression and offers another suggestion. “So vote for the nicest one,” he says. But there are very few nice ones in this election. Which is strange. Because I’d expect elected representatives who can’t offer peace or decent lives to the people who have to work two or three jobs, to at least be nice.

“So vote for the least-crappy one,” Lev says, prepared to keep lowering the bar. I nod and give my identity card to the plump lady who explains what’s written on the voters’ information page. Then I go behind the curtain and choose the ballot of the party I believe is the least-crappy one. That was good advice my son gave me. The smart advice of a 7-year-old who still hasn’t had time to forget that you can try and choose a good party, believe that it exists. Maybe if they gave 7-year-olds the right to vote, things would be different in this country. And leading it would be people who offer a bit of peace, or at least the hope that peace is possible, who give a little more money to the country’s citizens and not just to their cronies. But 7-year-olds still don’t have the right to vote, and what they know, the last few years have caused almost all of us to forget.

As I drop my envelope into the ballot box and try to give Lev the same smile my parents gave me almost 40 years ago, I can’t shake the fear that, in the end, most of us will still elect the crappiest one, the one that never offered us a single centimeter of hope.

Translated by Sondra Silverston


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Let’s guess who Etgar Keret voted for…. I say Meretz.

julis123 says:

Remember–We voted for that party once and we got intifada and missiles from Gaza. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to offer concessions when the other side wants to destroy you.

Mr. Keret: No PA/Hamas offering peace just elimination of Israel . No Israeli politics will change that reality

    Jacob Arnon says:

    Good point, Ronnie, but Keret is too solipsistic and he can’t hear us.

    Like most Israeli?Jewish peace obsessed children he thinks he lives alone in the universe.

Karen Juster Hecht says:

Wow Mr. Keret, this is a sweet and also very sad commentary…and one, I have to say, that kind of dashes my naive viewpoint of the Israeli elections compared with the U.S. ones….I saw you had something like 67% voter turnout and that is probably double the U.S. voter turnout so I was hopeful….Hmm…maybe we should all see the world through the eyes of the children…and keep seeing it that way….Thanks as always for your acute view of the world….

Least crappy, huh? Sounds like the lesser of two evils approach but with more than two options. I’m glad there is a slight but growing tendency to get those black-hat parasites participating in work and the army, though.

    Wait to see if Shas or United Torah Judaism is in the coalition. If they get in, there probably won’t be any black-hat participation in work and army.

Jacob Arnon says:

Keret is a strange man he works harder at being a pessimist than at learning the history of his country and his people.

Does he think that Egypt’s Morsi cares if the Jews is nice or not? He will hate him just the same. To him all Jews are the sons and daughters of monkeys and pigs.

By world standards including the US the Israeli political system is quite good.

Keret needs to stop expressing himself like a seven year old. It’s not his son he is writing about it’s the seven year old kid in his own head.

Ahhh… the fictional perspective of a citizen of the nation of Tel Aviv… where the results of masterchef are indeed far more pressing an issue than the results of an election.

Try asking border nations such as Keryat Shemona, Shederot, Ashdod, Herzeliya or Jerusalem- if these elections boiled down to “the least crappy one”.

So while I can certainly forgive a 7 year old for not recognising that party of Mother Theresa, Gandi and King cant “give” us peace – whats your excuse for excluding our unwilling enemies from the equation?!

Ah…the smell of self-loathing post-Zionism. “…the international isolation Israel has brought on itself by making inflammatory decisions like the one to expand settlement building, or to attack the Turkish flotilla…” No, Mr. Keret. It was not brought on ourselves by any actions of our own, but merely by our continued existence on the world stage. If we relinquished adequate territory (rather than expanding our existing towns) to satisfy the international community, we’d no longer be isolated because we’d no longer exist.

    When will the left take a look at the parties and realize that their countrymen are transferring ownership to a new demographic? The left did their job of establishing the State of Israel. We needed their socialistic efficiency. We don’t need them or their cut-off-their-nose-to-spite-their-face politics anymore. The rest of the world is finally getting sick of the taste of their respective socialist realities. Israel should learn from its own and others mistakes and encourage liberty and responsibility instead of continued dependency on the government.

disqus_8n6kipyvXk says:

So right, Etgar.

It is very sad that a parent is at such a loss when it comes to properly explaining reality to a child. Maybe it’s time the adults understood what they were voting for instead of this example of arrested (or regressed) development.


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My Son’s First Election

My 7-year-old told me to vote for the party that ‘gives the most peace,’ but there were none on offer in Israel’s election

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