Join our email list

What are Israelis Saying with their Votes?

The following is a transcript of Episode 58 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors. 

Donniel: My name is Donniel Hartman, and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and this is for Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. 

In thos episode, we’re going to continue our attempt to shed light on the upcoming elections and through them, on some of the core issues at the heart of Israeli society. Our theme for today is entitled, the Ongoing, or Ever-going Israeli Elections: What Is Really Dividing Us? 

In each edition up For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the institute here in Jerusalem, and myself discuss a current issue central to Israel and the Jewish world. And then Elana Stein Hain, director of Hartman faculty in North America, explores with us how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. Let’s begin. 

Under the best conditions, the Israeli political system has difficulty creating workable coalitions out of our ideologically disparate parties. But now we seem to be in the grips of an increasingly dysfunctional process. And polls indicate that we may be heading towards yet another deadlock. We’re speaking about elections in March. Purim time. 

It appears that most Israeli voters have long since decided to which parties and blocs they belong to and no amount of campaigning, no matter how passionate or seemingly persuasive, can move them from their fixed decisions regarding the blocs and the changes are within the blocs.

But what exactly, these positions that seem to be unchangeable, what are these positions? When voters define themselves as pro-Netanyahu or anti-Netanyahu, what are the values or issues they’re actually expressing? What issues lie at the heart of each bloc and are there meaningful divisions that we can discern within the blocs themselves? Is the political divide and expression of ideological, tribal, or cultural divides, or something else?

That’s what we’re gonna explore today. Yossi, great being with you. 

Yossi: Great being with you, Donniel. 

Donniel: Let’s go, my friend. 

Yossi: Yeah, what are we arguing about?

Donniel: You know, we’re gonna go vote again and we’re gonna vote again. 

Yossi: Less than a month to go. Amazing.

Donniel: Less than a month to go. We’ll do a promo. We’re gonna have a, uh, a live podcast on election night, but if you had to pick one thing, not two, not seven. One. What, what is it, Yossi?

Yossi: Democracy. Now the question is what do I mean by democracy? That’s what’s dividing us. 

What do we mean by democracy? So my camp, I call it the centrist camp, or the liberal camp, believes in liberal democracy, believes that democracy is not just the rule of the majority, but the minority also has rights. The majority can’t just decide by a simple, uh, majority. A simple majority, that it can determine the fate of every citizen in the country. Individuals have rights, minorities have rights and a majority has rights. 

Donniel: Who doesn’t want, who doesn’t want the, and so in this center camp that I also, um, don’t tell anybody belong to, um, it’ll be our secret for today.

Um, what are the rights that are on the table that need to be protected? The just not BiBi camp, like what rights, what minority rights are being threatened?

Yossi: What I hear over and over again from voters on the right, and not just voters for the extreme right, the Ben Gvir faction, but Netanyahu supporters, and by the way, I see less and less of a division between what we once considered the normative, the mainstream right, and the far right, especially on this issue, is whether, um, Arab citizens have inalienable rights. 

Donniel: As, as Jews. 

Yossi: Yeah. And so, for example, why not impose military law on Arab citizens? That’s something that you hear more and more in right-wing circles, again, including mainstream right-wing circles.

The turning point were the riots last year, the Arab riots in the mixed cities, which have had an enormous radicalizing impact, especially on the conversation of democracy. So that’s one example. Religion and state is an example. 

Let’s say the Netanyahu coalition comes to power. They have 61 votes on any issue that any component of the coalition decides is essential for them. There’s the issue right now of whether the new light rail that’s being built in Tel Aviv can run on Shabbat. So our current Minister of Transportation, Merav Michaeli, of Labor has declared that the, the light rail will run on Shabbat in, in Tel Aviv, which is the rights of the majority of Tel Aviv, but maybe a minority in the country.

Protecting the courts from the whims of the politicians. The court’s job is to protect the rights of individuals and minority rights as well as majority rights. But if you make the court subservient to a 61-seat majority in the Knesset, then you are erasing the last wall of protection for minorities, 

Donniel: So you, you’re describing something that’s, um, let’s stay on it for a moment, cause I’m used to knowing like, the standard statement is, Haredim, they’re interested in using the majority to pursue their own interests, so they’re committed to that. Right wing fascist ideologies, again, are define, are willing to have a dictatorship, uh, of the majority, as long as, and as long as they’re in the majority.

You’ve been describing that this is mainstream Likud.

Yossi: That’s the change, that’s the change that Netanyahu has brought since, uh, his legal troubles and he has managed to turn his own personal issues into a kind of ideology. And, you know, initially when he brought in Ben Gvir, I thought this was just a technicality, but there’s more substantial.

Donniel: Something deeper is happening here.

Yossi: Yes. And what’s changed is that democracy was always a given in this society, and you, and you, you, you said it just, just a moment ago, even the Haredi parties had to at least pay lip service to democracy. But something has changed.

When Miri Regev, one of the important leaders in the Likud, the former culture minister, one of Netanyahu’s major uh, allies, said recently that the world has enough democracies. The world doesn’t need another democracy. This is the only Jewish state. 

She was expressing a fundamental change that’s happened in the political culture here. And the desperation that I sense in my camp is that we’re really, this election is, we are fighting for the future of Israeli democracy.

Donniel: Really interesting, uh, scary, frightening. I hear you and I have no evidence to the contrary, but that’s not gonna keep me from having an opinion. 

Um, I don’t wanna believe that that’s mainstream Likud. I don’t wanna believe it, but every politician, every fact that you quote, I can’t tell you that it’s fake. It’s true. But I hope they’re part of something else. And um,

Yossi: Whether who’s part of something else?

Donniel: Whether these statements aren’t indicative of something else.

I would put on the table another, and it’s not as distinct from, but you got one and now I’ll pick one. I find that the people in my camp aren’t frightened. If we’re frightened, we’re frightened of the other camp getting into power. That both sides are.

But tthe basic premise of the conversation is that Israel’s powerful, Israel’s in a great place, and now what do we need to do? The conversation is not engulfed around an enemy discourse, threatening us. And I’m not talking about the enemy being the other camp, because yes, when you have two camps, each side sees the other as the enemy. That’s inevitable, unfortunately. But there is a different discourse amongst everybody on the center and center-left about the future of Israel. 

There’s a plethora of issues. We’re gonna, yes, our job is to maintain the security, but we’re gonna do that and it’s gonna maintain Iran and we’re gonna do. There, there’s a seriousness, but you don’t feel that I need to vote for them because they have to save me from an imminent destruction unless the not Bibi is there.

And here, I wanna give them their best reading. Like, who is wrong? How dangerous is our reality? How dangerous are we? People who, who move to what is now called the right-wing bloc used to have a lot of ideological statements, like, we are the lovers of Israel and we’re the lovers of the Jewishness of Israel. I don’t think that’s the essential thing. 

I think there’s a fear. There’s a sense of profound angst about the future, and I think one of the reasons why they unify around Netanyahu is that they trust Netanyahu to navigate those waters. That’s why I think a lot of the people, they use a lot of language to reach people and, and part of what happens is politicians who use words impact.

And I think that’s why I have to take your, what you’re saying more seriously, but there’s something about, I know I live in the Middle East, but being a Zionist, living in Israel today is that I’m not a Middle Eastern phenomenon. I don’t feel I’m a middle Eastern phenomenon.

Now, one of the fascinating things about Yair Lapid, and Bennett, and Gantz, Minister of Defense, is that they took care of our stuff. Israel, they were just as serious about security. They didn’t do, whatever Netanyahu did, they did. Everything. We, or even more, We have been serious. We’ve been fighting terror, protecting Israeli civilians.

But the campaign there is a sense, this goes back to last May as part of it. That our life here is very, very dangerous. Don’t talk to me about rights. Even if I agree with them, that’s just not my issue. And yes, I wouldn’t wanna sit with a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox, but you know what, that’s not my issue. 

And even settlements. Don’t talk to me about, even though I don’t live in settle, how many people live in settlements? I know, but stop it. But this is a coalition which sees imminent danger. And here we’re gonna deal with these dangers. You are dangerous for Israel.

Yossi: Now what, what you’ve just done, Donniel, is offer a psychological framework and explanation for the divide over democracy, because people who are afraid, people who feel their personal security threatened, the security of the state.

Donniel: Human rights is a luxury.

Yossi: What are you talking to me? Look at the courts. Look at what they’re busy with. I was speaking to a Ben Gvir supporter today. And he was saying, he was saying they stole,

Donniel: One second, you, a friend of yours?

Yossi: Not yet. And uh, or maybe a former.

Donniel: Don’t tell me he was a taxi driver.

Yossi: I won’t. 

Donniel: Good. Cause everybody has their mythological, we, we know Israel from the taxis. 

Yossi: Right, but, but he happened to be good. And what he was saying was, look, the other day, an Arab slipped into an army base and stole a tractor. Whoever heard of such a thing happening in the state of Israel? We have no security left anymore. They throw stones at soldiers and soldiers don’t respond. I’d like to see that happen in Putin’s Russia. 

In other words, look, you can’t argue with that because it’s part of a much larger psychological framework that you just described.

Donniel: I think this psychological, I’ve been thinking about this.

Yossi: Democracy is a luxury. It’s a luxury. 

Donniel: It’s a luxury. 

Yossi: Now, I, the only disagreement that I have with the way you laid it out was, um, people in the Netanyahu camp tend not to give people in the liberal camp the benefit of the doubt that we’re all interested in protecting Israel. What you hear more and more in the nationalist Netanyahu camp is they don’t care about Israeli security. They are willing to sacrifice us for their high ideals. That’’s the discourse that I find so wor rying. 

Donniel: So worrying. There’s another, if I could put another one and I think maybe it contributes. 

You know it’s interesting when there is a psychological motivation cause it would also explain why there is no change. We’re fixed. You move in your bloc. You’re not gonna move outside your bloc, no matter what you do, because it just doesn’t count. In other words, it’s 

Yossi: Right. That’s right. It’s deeper. It’s deeper than just tribal divides. We always talk about the tribal divide. There’s a psychological divide.

Donniel: You see, but I think the psychological divides are even being fed by the tribal. They’re like, I think they’re, they’re combining, right? Because like, even look at this latest Israel signing a deal with Lebanon to recognize its border. So that we’re gonna the maritime, the maritime borders, and we’re gonna agree and we’re gonna have our oil, the gas thing, and they’ll have their gas thing.

But I, frankly, you asked me, is it a good deal or a bad, I have no idea. I didn’t look into it. I didn’t study the issue to know, like, did Israel get a good deal or not? I’m just assuming that this is a good thing. You know, we’re living in an era of, in Hebrew you call it shefa, of abundance. And we’re now, we have a major amount and we’re gonna get another major amount of gas. And we’re in doing so we’re also gonna not have conflict with our neighbor, in Lebanon. 

So like, I’m not, I’m not worried about the exact deal. And then all this, oh, the other side. This is the, the mere fact that you’ve negotiated a deal. You’ve sold the shop. They got a hundred percent. This is the former American Ambassador, David Friedman, Israel got zero and the Lebanese got a hundred percent. And, and oh, and Nasrallah’s happy. Cause if Nasrallah’s happy, by definition, I, you start from a place that, that everything, our world is about to fall apart and here you’re doing it again. You just destroy. 

And I come from that other place, so there is that. And that’s why you, you can’t even talk with each other. But when you lay on top of it, Israel is a very deeply tribal society. And when these, this psychological propensity sits on tribal identities, it becomes even more ingrained because, even if I’m not as fearful, my tribe is supposed to be fearful, you know?

Yossi: No, you know, and it’s an extraordinary moment, Donniel, because we’re now in round five in three years of elections and nothing’s moving. No amount of argument, it’s not about argument. 

Donniel: It’s not about policy. 

Yossi: No, no. And you look at this government, the way it’s performed in the last year. Look at each ministry and compare it to the way, to the way the ministries were being run in the last few years. We’d have a well functioning government just on that basis. It doesn’t matter because if you feel that the country’s security is being threatened, if it’s a question of life and death, it doesn’t matter to me if Merav Michaeli is doing a good job in transportation. 

Donniel: You know, it’s also, it’s like when, and that, by the way, is why Ben Gvir is so powerful and why Ben Gvir is not just a member of a coalition. But he’s defining the tenor of a coalition. 

Yossi: Yes, he is.

Donniel: Because when he gets up and says, this coalition, and this is the language, has endangered the state of Israel. We have no government over the Negev. Jews are afraid to walk in the city of Akko. 

Now, any rational person would say, once, just, I wanna understand something, the situation of the Bedouins in the Negev has changed in the last year or is this because of policy, neglect, and lack of serious discourse for decades, or who was Prime Minister for the last 10, 12 years?  Or just when Bennett came into power last June, that’s when Jews were frightened to walk in Yafa and in Akko? 

The riots that took place were under which government? They were under Likud government, So here it is. But he could even make this statement and you could say, one second. What are you talking about? 

Yossi: It doesn’t matter because it’s not about rational arguments. 

Donniel: No, it, it, it’s about, it is rational.

Yossi: It’s about perception.

Donniel: It’s my perception that there is something dangerous and I, Ben Gvir, I’m gonna call it. Yeah, and I’m gonna put it on the table. And then that’s, in essence, he’s merely mirroring the same language in this sense that parts of the other bloc, and that’s, I think that’s what Miri Regev meant when she says the world has enough democracies. You know, she says, I want one place that worries about the Jewish people. Like, that, not, it’s not that she’s anti-democracy. 

Yossi: The, the irony though is almost every Israeli Jew would agree with that statement. Look, for me, Israel is built on two non-negotiable identities. Jewish and Democratic. And Democratic is an identity. But if you ask me what’s first, of course, the Jewishness of the state is first. Of course, our mission to protect and defend the Jewish people and create a public space that reflects thousands of years of Jewish civilization comes first. But democracy is a very close second. 

Donniel: So here, I think there is here, and maybe you’re not as indicative of everybody else in the camp, or maybe the camp is more divided on this. Another division is that the center, right, the role of the Jewishness of Israel is more dominant. 

Maybe because also it goes back to the fear. Now it’s natural. You have the religious parties, whether it’s the religious Zionist and the ultra-orthodox. Issues of Judaism, and even amongst the Likud where half the members of Knesset are Orthodox. There’s a natural affinity to leaning towards Israel’s Jewish public space, or Israel’s Jewish identity. The Jewishness of Israel. And it’s not just Jewish law, you know, when buses running, no, how do you say tzivyon? 

Yossi: The, the coloration. The, the, there’s, the atmosphere.

Donniel: There’s a sense, the atmosphere. They re, there’s a deep resonance. A much deeper resonance to the Jewish atmosphere in one bloc. Now, of course, the other bloc, the people who speak most about Judaism and Jewish, Yair Lapid, Meretz. They speak about Jewish values all the time.

Of course I want Israel to defend the Jewish people, but for me in Israel, that’s not Democratic, is not a Jewish, See, democracy for me is a, is is Jewish. See, democracy is not, it’s a Jewish value, you know, but it’s, but 

Yossi: You know, my irony, my personal irony, is that I resonate with the Jewishness of the right. That’s an Israel I feel very comfortable in, culturally, the music, as a religious Jew, that’s where I feel that my Israeliness is most richly expressed, but not at the expense of liberal democracy. 

And what’s happening in that camp, which was not true in the past, is that the legitimate insistence on the Jewish nature of the state is now being posited against the rights of the minority.

Donniel: You know, it’s interesting, I’m wondering, and again, because you know, I wanna elevate, I’m wondering if this is not a byproduct of the fact that the Ultra-Orthodox are only going with one camp. If there would ever be a possibility of creating a coalition with the center, whether the center would also say, you know what, for the sake of the future of Israel, we won’t have the buses and we won’t have the this.

Yossi: But you know, it’s crazy. I hear you. I hear you, Donniel. 

Donniel: It’s sort of, but, and so you’re right, it’s like this group has embraced the Jewishness and our side.

See, cause of course I, I also love the Jewishness of Israel, but if you ask me, the essence of Israel is not, the Jewishness is not the Jewish fla. Maybe it’s the essence, but it’s not the foundation. The foundation is fundamental democratic principles, which for me are the essence of my Judaism.

Yossi: But you know, we’re overlooking something when we, when we posit one bloc against the other. We just had the first kippa-wearing Prime Minister. And it was not from the right.

Donniel: But it was a small little kippa. It was such a small

Yossi: It was. It was. And it had to be kept on with, with Velcro, because he has a shaved head. And Bibi, is a shrimp eating, you know,

Donniel: Who eats chazerai on Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur.

Yossi: I know when we talk about the Jewishness of the state, you have to put it in a perspective. There are other issues that are being played out here.

Donniel: Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting how, but you know, politicians aside, I think the camps, those who lean to worry more about this Jewishness feel also they’re safer. See, cause it’s what’s Judaism. In many ways, just like you spoke about, there’s a debate over what’s democracy, there’s also a debate over what’s Judaism.

You know, is Judaism Orthodox law, culture, or a public atmosphere? Or is Judaism a certain set of, of moral values and maybe part of the debate between the two sides?

Yossi: Or both? 

Donniel: Or both. Maybe it’s, what is our Judaism, is also so it’s there, the country is a little more divided. 

Yossi: Ah, that’s an interesting way to formulate it. What is Judaism? That’s taking us a level deeper than what is democracy. And is democracy an essential part of contemporary Judaism? 

Donniel: Contemporary Judaism. Yeah. Yossi, let’s take a, a short break and when we come back, Elana will join us. 

Hi, Elana, how are you?

Elana: Doing pretty well. Good to be with you. I think, um, I’m gonna have, uh, but democracy is a close second, put on a mug for Yoss. It was an interesting, you know,

Donniel: Just don’t, just don’t make a mug for me. For Rabbi Hartman, Judaism is a close second.

Elana: Listen, Donniel, the name of the book, the name of the book, you, you did the mug yourself.

Donniel: Yeah, putting Judaism, you know, it’s not bad enough that I put God second. Now I’m gonna put Judaism second. 

Yossi: The truth is, you can’t win in this conversation. Which is first, which is second. 

Donniel: So you know, you’re right, Elana, we’ll leave that, who was first, who was second. 

Elana: Too many clever Jews. Too many clever Jews. We can’t win.

Donniel: Too many clever Jews. 

Israeli society, Israeli elections from 6,000 miles away. My friend, what do you see and what do you, how do we expand this and deepen this?

Elana: Look, don’t get, don’t get me wrong. It would be a lot of speculation to sit here and talk a, more on my end, from what I hear, that echos what’s going on in America, in terms of political choices becoming people’s identities, in terms of the question of who’s working off of a culture of fear, the erosion of democracy.

But I don’t wanna align the American experience and the Israeli experience, just noticing some echoes. And I do wanna say, I was reading David Makovsky from, uh, the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, and he said something interesting, which was, he called this a battle of inches. Cause he said, isn’t it wild that so much has happened over the last two years, whether it’s covid or it’s war, or it’s Dubai. So much has happened and yet you still, election after election, it’s by the skin of our teeth. 

And I actually wanna focus a little bit on that. I, I wanna take us away from maybe the content and into the form, which is just the definition of insanity, is doing something repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. And that is what we’re seeing. Fifth election in what? Four years? Fifth election. 

So we are in the repentance season. Okay. Even if we’re going to release this episode after Yom Kippur. I don’t think the repentance season ends with Yom Kippur, and I don’t think the rabbis thought that either. Right. There’s always room for repentance. And one of the things that we laugh about culturally is that we call ourselves a stiff-necked people. Am kesherov.

But one of the things we actually do repentance for in our confession, is we say kshinu oref. We have been very stubborn. And I wanna spend a minute looking into that concept. Because there is certainly a lot of stubbornness going on here and for good reason.

Donniel: Not on my part.

Elana: Oh, not in this room. No. God forbid, never in this room. Among the Israeli electorate.

Donniel: Them.

Elana: Right, them. Not us, them. It’s like every time you do it again, it’s like, no, no, I’m gonna stick to my guns even more, and I wanna talk about that a little bit, not just in terms of the Israeli electorate. I wanna talk about that in terms of human beings and human nature. 

So, anybody who knows me knows that I think there’s always a source somewhere that goes against the grain, right? So like, let’s take  the classic verse in the Bible about the Jews being a stiff-necked people. Okay? Classic verse in the Bible is, after the golden calf, God says to Moses, This is Exodus 32:9. God said to Moses, I see that this people, and by the way, it’s like in the past tense, I saw, that this people, uh, you know, they’re, uh, stiff-necked people. I mean, they’re a stubborn people. 

And of course everybody likes to explain that as, oh, they’re terrible. Look at what they did. They’re so stubborn no matter what I do for them. But of course, as there’s always a source, I found a source. There’s this unbelievable Midrash, Exodus Rabba, which is like later Midrash. It’s not like the first five centuries. It’s, it’s, we’re talking later.

And it says as follows. Rav Yakim says there are three. Who are the most chutzpadik, who have the most chutzpah, who are the most, I guess, stubborn, brazen, right? To go back to what we talked about last time, Brazenness. The most chutzpadik among the animals is a dog. Among the birds is a rooster. And among the nations is Israel. 

And then Rebbe Yitzchak, the son of Redifa, by the way, a name I’ve never heard before, says in the name of Rabbi Ami, you think that’s a bad thing to be stubborn? It’s a good thing to be stubborn. And then I don’t even know exactly how to translate this.

The Hebrew is o yehudi o tzlov. Either be a Jew or be hanged. And a lot of people try to understand what are we talking about. And basically the way people interpret it is Jews throughout history have been incredibly stubborn and we’ve been stubborn to make sacrifices for things that matter, right, throughout our exiles, expulsions persecutions.

That stubbornness was actually a good thing. It’s not a bad thing. And what’s even better is there’s this 19th century Russian rabbi, he’s called the Etz Yosef, and he says, you know that verse that says, God says I, I saw this people, and I see that there’s stiff-necked. He says, that’s a compliment. And what it means is, you know, when I first saw these people, I said, ah, these people, they’re, they’re good. It’s good to give the Torah to them because they’re stiff-necked, they’re stubborn, so they won’t leave it. They’ll stick with it. They’re not gonna leave it. And now I see, ooh, no, no, no. They’re stiff-necked, in the sense that if they have a wrong idea, they’re gonna keep it no matter what.

And I think it’s really interesting to suggest, well, two things, just thinking about your conversation. The first is, I think that this sense that Israelis keep going to the polls and keep going to the polls and keep going to the polls. And let’s be very clear, I don’t think there’s like some imminence, stiff-neckedness to the Jewish people, more than to anybody else. Right. 

But this sense of commitment also speaks to a certain resilience. It’s a stubbornness. People keep going to the polls and they say, no, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it again, I’m gonna do it again, I’m gonna do it again. It’s the same resilience that allows the two of you to sit here and talk, not knowing what’s gonna happen later in the day, not knowing, maybe getting over things that happened yesterday, right in a different way than me sitting in New York, I, we worry about different things. 

Right, there’s a resilience there that I think in a teshuva period, I actually wanna celebrate. I know it sounds terrible. You shouldn’t have five elections. I hope you don’t have a sixth election. But what’s the flip side? How do you use that resilience and that stubbornness, right?

And then the second thing I’m gonna say is that when I look at the people who vote the way that I want them to, I say, oh, that’s great stubbornness. That’s great commitment. Go in there and get there and fix it and do it, and don’t let anybody deter you. But when I look at the side that’s standing for things like anti-democratic principles, I say, oh man, you just stiff-necked people. There’s no way that I can prove you wrong. 

So I just wanna, I, I wanna start with that. I have more to say, but I, I wanna start with that. As psychological, if we’re going psychological, I think it’s interesting to consider, to start off.

Donniel: First of all, you’re right, I am expecting a different result um, each time. 

Elana: Exactly. Exactly. 

Donniel: But part of the stiff-neckedness is that it’s a serious election. And each one of the five elections are serious elections. We have a very high, one of the highest turnout rates, anywhere in the Western world, and we’re still fighting. 

Now, so I don’t know if we’re expecting different results, but you’re right, like we’re, it’s very strange. I was speaking in my introduction, that these are considered one of the more momentous elcetions. Saying, I could say that about every one, and I’m still saying it. So, you’re right. Like we’re not giving up. And on both sides, there’s a sense, there’s something big is on the table.

And, um, you know who’s different? Arab Society is giving up. They’re feeling so disenfranchised and, and ignored that, like, who am I gonna vote for? So it’s interesting this, elections are a profoundly empowering experience as long as you feel empowered, as long as you feel. That stiff-neckedness. 

And in many ways the elections are even making me more stiff-necked. And everybody, you’re right, I care about this and you know what, if there’s gonna be another six months, if this is what’s the best for the state of Israel, call me, I’m, I’m there. 

And the one thing I’m not gonna do is I’m not gonna compromise on what I think is best for Israel. Maybe, you know, using your category might even be a way to look at some of the critique of Bennett. Cause the critique of Bennett was that you gave up. That you knew what was real.

Elana: Not stiff-necked enough. 

Donniel: You gave up for something else that was you, you knew better. So it wasn’t a technical issue, but that might be a a serious way of looking at it.

Elana: And look, I wanna build one layer on top of it, if I may.

Donniel: Sure.

Elana: Which is, you know, there’s the form of sort of the grit, of how committed are you going to be, and then there’s the content, like you’re saying, of what’s important. And I think there’s another really important rabbinic concept actually at play here.

And I’m gonna summarize it for time, and that is, there’s a concept known as when you’re sure about something, a possibility of something else, it’s not really gonna change your position, right? It’s called in Hebrew ein sofek motzi midei vadai. 

And the way that it’s used in rabbinic law is like, if I just check my house, I know it’s the wrong holiday, if I just check my house for chametz before Passover. And I see a rodent bring chametz into my house, which by the way, in an apartment in New York City, not a crazy thing, could happen. And I don’t know what happened to that chametz. I say I, I know that it brought it in, but I don’t know if it got rid of it.

And I can’t say, oh yeah, I’m sure it’s gone. There’s something, when there’s something that you’re sure of, and you were talking about people being sure of Netanyahu. The idea that somebody says, oh, but there’s a possibility. Let me jump in here and let me help you, and let’s do something different and let’s try.

You can’t unseat people from what they know to be for sure. What they know to be vadai.

Donniel: I, I hear you Elana,

Elana: And it only grows.

Donniel: And especially when on the table is not a little bit of chametz, but is the future of a country. And um, and that principle of what we’re certain for, and maybe each side has its different certainty.

Elana: And how much does your certainty grow with each election? It’s not that you get less certain, you get more certain.

Donniel: You get more certain. That’s where we are. Beautiful. 

Yossi, Elana, thank you so much for being with me today.

For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It was produced by David Zvi Kalman and edited by Gareth Hobbs at Silver Sound NYC. Our production manager is M. Louis Gordon.

Transcriptions of our show are now available on our website, typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online We wanna know what you think about the show. You can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show.

You can also write to us at [email protected]. Subscribe to our show in the Apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, Audible, and everywhere else podcasts are available. See you in two weeks. Thanks for listening. Shana Tova. Happy holidays everybody. And its pleasure to be with everyone. Be well.

Yossi: Shana Tova. 

Elana: Shana Tova.

More on
Join our email list


The End of Policy Substance in Israel Politics