Shlicha's/Shaliach's View

As elections near, Israelis seek new way forward

Elections in Israel — why now?

Oshrat Barel
Oshrat Barel

During my recent visit to Israel, many of the conversations I had with family and friends were about the upcoming elections in Israel. The fact that the elections are being held prematurely did not come as a surprise, especially given that Israel has experienced early elections in the past. In light of an electoral system that requires the assembly of a coalition in which there are multiple parties with great differences in ideology, it is perhaps surprising that the government held the last two years.

In the last decades, political parties that are considered “mid” (for “middle”) were added to the political system in Israel. In terms of the overall security outlook, the majority of the new mid political parties support two states for two nations and a willingness to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, but the focus of these parties primarily is domestic affairs. One example of such parties is “Yesh Atid” (There Is a Future), led by Yair Lapid. Its political platform actually did not talk at all about the negotiations with the Palestinians and almost entirely focused on the condition of the middle class in Israel and the intolerable situation in which young couples cannot even dream of owning their own homes. In fact, one of the reasons that caused the current coalition crisis and led to Yair Lapid’s dismissal from the government was his bill proposing zero VAT (sales tax) on apartments for young couples.

Although my visit to Israel, personally, was great and recharged my batteries, I could not avoid a sense of the desperation in the air among the citizens of Israel who crave a strong leader to get them out of the political quagmire — and not through intimidation, but in a way that will allow them to live with dignity in the country their ancestors dreamed of.

Israeli culture — Israel’s mouth or foot painting artists

While in Israel, I visited a unique place in Petach Tikva, the Israeli branch of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. An Israeli who lives in Tucson told me about this organization and I was fascinating to learn more. I met with some representatives of the organization, accompanied by my mother, who has been handicapped since childhood. We saw many products created using the art of people who didn’t give up their dreams even after they lost the ability to paint with their hands.

The Israeli group was started in 1967 and is a branch of an international organization that began in 1956. The objectives of these artists include “being as independent as possible and not being a burden on society, expressing our feelings and ideas in color through our work, and receiving artistic and professional regard for our paintings.”

The Weintraub Israel Center, thanks to a generous donation, was able to buy products from Israel’s Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, including Haggadahs, children’s books, calendars and placemats, and bring them to Tucson. You are welcome to contact our office to see what we have for sale. We will also display these lovely items at our upcoming events.

Tucson — Weintraub Israel Center upcoming events

Oded Sharabi — We will host this recycling artist and teacher from Kochav Michael in Israel for Tu B’Shevat celebrations between Jan. 25 and Feb. 1. In Israel, in addition to planting trees and holding a Tu B’Shevat seder featuring fruits, the holiday has become a time to focus on recycling.

Thank G-d for Israel — a joint program with the Friends of Israel organization, which supports Israel during turbulent and peaceful times, Thursday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Israel’s Proposed National Identity Law and Human Rights — with guest speaker Leonard Hammer, Ph.D. Some have asserted that one of the reasons for the upcoming elections in Israel is the proposed Basic Law on Jewish National Identity. This lecture will explain some of the grounds for human rights in Israel and the potential impact of the proposed law. It will be held Sunday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the JCC.

Oshrat Barel is Tucson’s community shlicha (Israel emissary) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.