Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE KNESSET LESSON by Barry Silverberg


a comic piece
in the tradition of ‘theatre of the absurd’

Teacher: Good morning. Your parents. . . invited me today. . . to give you a private lesson in Israeli . . . citizenship.
Pupil: Yeah, we made Aliah from Vancouver last month and I ‘m missing a lot of material in Ezrahoot, though I did try to follow the news before we came.
Teacher: Not to worry. Today we’ll talk about, ‘how the Israeli electoral system works.”
Pupil: That’s great. I’m really confused by what I read in the papers and blogs.
Teacher: Let’s start with the results of last week’s . . . elections.
Pupil: OK. Who got the most votes?
Teacher: Tsippi Livni, head of the Kadima (=forward) party, with 28 seats.
Pupil: So Ms. Livni won, right?
Teacher: No, she lost. It doesn’t look like she’ll be able to get enough partners to form a majority government.
Pupil: What about Bibi Netanyahu?
Teacher: He got 27 seats. As the leader of the right, he may form a coalition of 65 right wing party seats.
Pupil: Then he won, I guess.
Teacher: No, Avigdor Lieberman (Israel is Our Home) won.
Pupil: How many seats did he get?
Teacher 15.
Pupil: So how did he win?
Teacher: That’s the way politics in Israel works.
Pupil: It’s confusing with three major parties!
Teacher: What, three? Who told you three? There’s also the labour party. They once were the largest party in Israel, and ruled for the first 30 years. Today they have 11 seats.
Pupil: Four parties? How do you ever get anyth-
Teacher: Stop interrupting me! Four? Who told you four? There’s also Shas:
Pupil: What’s Shas?
Teacher: Ultra orthodox Moroccans. They appeared on the scene some twenty years ago and they have around 12 seats today.
Pupil: How bewildering. What are the main issues that divide the parties?
Teacher: The crucial issue is the ‘territories’ that Israel gained during the war in 1967. If you believe that these areas are an integral part of Israel and that Jews should continue to live there, you are on the ‘right.’ If you believe that Israel should withdraw from these territories, or make some kind of compromise, then you are on the ‘left.’
Pupil: I read that Bibi supported the retreat from Gaza and the expulsion of 10,000 Jews . His party must be really far left. Right?
Teacher: Right. I mean, no, he ’s on the right. His Licud party has always been right.
Pupil: What about Lieberman?
Teacher: He says that there’s too much power in the hands of rabbis. He wants secular marriage and religious freedom.
Pupil: So he’s the extreme left. Right?
Teacher: Wrong! Wrong! Wrong again! He’s way right. Extreme left is “Meretz”. Their slogan is “We won’t compromise.”
Pupil: That makes them radical right, right?
Teacher: You have snow for brains, I see. Wrong; LEFT! They refuse all compromise , unless, of course, it is with Arabs. Some of them actually believe that the Jewish state should not exist.
Pupil: I’m getting dizzy. So, all 120 Knesset seats will be taken by these six parties. That’s really a lot.
Teacher: You’re kidding me, right? What, six? Who told you six? You’ve forgotten National Religious parties: The Jewish Home party, for Jewish settlement of Judah and Samaria, and the National Union, who are really really absolutely for Jewish settlement of Judah and Samaria. Then there are also ultra orthodox Ashkenazim. Some of them actually believe that the Jewish state should not exist.
Pupil: Like Meretz, correct?
Teacher: Corr- what, are you crazy? Stop blathering and let me finish: There are also three parties exclusively for Arabs.
Pupil: Let me guess: Some of the Arabs actually believe that the Jewish state should not exist.
Teacher: Now you’re catching on.
Pupil: I can’t catch on to anything. I’ve had it! This is too much for me! No country has twelve separate parties!
Teacher: What twelve? Who told you twelve? Where are you going? We’ve just started. There’s the male rights party, so all those divorced men whose wives got custody can take their kids out of the house. There’s the pensioner’s party, to help the elderly get more often out of the house. There’s the handicapped party, who want to get out of the house and have a place to go, and there’s For the Kids’ Sake, which is trying to put kids taken out of their non functional households back into the house. Of course you can’t overlook “Hadash.”
Pupil: (glazed eyes): That means ‘new.’
Teacher: Very good. They want a new system: Communism.
Then we have ‘The Strong Israel party. They promise to fight organized crime. Unfortunately, Kadima is organized crime. There’s also Tsomet--
Pupil: STOP! STOP!
Teacher: Very good. Stop for the Tsomet party. The name means ‘intersection.’
Pupil: NO! STOP STOP!! I can’t take any more.
Teacher: You must listen! What about ‘Leader?’ -- to curb the monopoly of the banks?
The ‘Light’ Party? The ‘Responsibility Party?’ the ‘Noodleman Renewal Russian Party?’
Pupil: (writhing on floor): No, this cannot be real. Make it stop!
Teacher: The Green Party to save the environment.
Pupil: ( weaker) Nooooooooooooooooo.
Teacher: The Leftist Religious Green Party, who are in favor of territorial compromise as long as we first separate the territory into glass, plastic and organic.
Pupil: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Teacher: The Green Leaf party fighting to legalize cannabis.
Pupil: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Teacher: And most important, The Green Leaf Senior/ Holocaust Survivor Merger Party, who will fight for the right to smoke their old cannabis and get more reparations at the same time.
Pupil: ( is now lying motionless on the floor).
Teacher: What’s the matter with him. We’ve only gone through the first 28!
Twenty -eight? Who told you twenty-eight! Hey, get up! There’s a lot more to do!
. . . . . . . . . (sighs). . .What do you expect a Canadian kid to know about democracy!

Note: The above is based on a true political system. In the Israeli elections held on Feb 10, there were THIRTY SEVEN separate lists! While the above sketch is not conclusive, not one party mentioned above is made up; no matter how much they look it.

Barry Silverberg
February, 2009
Kiriat Shmona, Polling Station 37, Poll 12


Anonymous said...

It's certainly true that the number of parties is a headache, but it's much safer than the American 2-party system...

Has Israel has a two-party system during Oslo-1, Arafat would have already gotten his wish of a "river to the sea" terrorist-state.

We need to keep it the way it is for as long as possible. In another 20 years, religious-Zionist will outnumber the secular leftists and centrists combined. We are having like 6 kids to every one of their single births.

And when that day comes, we'll have a true Jewish-state (hopefully Sanhedrin and all!)

Anonymous said...

Well, you are overdoing it - a bit, anyways. The USA, for example, does not have only 2 parties - they have Greens, Communists, Libertarians, and so on and so on; actually because of the many regional parties, it's more than even in Israel - only most of them (all but two) are not represented in congress.
In Irael, there are more parties in the Knesset, of course, but still only 12. So it's not quite that bad.
But the sketch is still funny.


judih said...

brilliant, brilliant. oh, poor inert student, so representative of us all.
thank you, barry!

Anonymous said...

Thank you JudiH.
Shabbat Shalom.
You can read more of my Stoo Yot by googling {Barry ETNI}.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the encouragement.


see the (mostly ) uncensored Barry