By Beca Bookman, Union of Jewish Students, Israel engagement officer
Students simply won’t care about a foreign election, and why should they?
Israeli politics are complicated, confusing and constantly changing.
Between term work, exams and general life, why should any student take time to engage with the intimidating beast that is the Israeli elections?
Those questions are the general sentiment I heard as UJS prepared for the Israeli elections. As a campus professional dedicated to all things Israel, I quickly assumed that we would explore how to use the elections as an opportunity for education and experiential learning.
My meetings proved that, like most things new and Israel-based, there was a strong opposing norm.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to show the naysayers that there’s more to these elections than an interest in international affairs.
For Jewish people around the world, these elections go further than politics.
Israel’s political character is defined by being both a democracy and a Jewish state.
Israel is the only country where Jewish politics is more than the disputes of communal organisations, leaders and active members.
Israel is where Jewish politics rises to the level of national elections and government.
Even 66 years after the state was established, this transformation of Jewish politics continues to be both exciting and tense.
Get it right, and maybe the Jewish world will have a little less to get heated about.
Get it wrong, and our fractures are sensationalised by the global press.
That’s the implication for Jews generally, but even more for Jewish university students.
University is a formative time when young Jews gain a new independence and must think about the Jewish life they want to create for themselves.
One’s relationship with Israel is a part of that. Today, for better or worst, our community demands close scrutiny of a young person’s connection with a biblical homeland and modern state.
Pressures mount when campus is portrayed as the scariest place to be a Jew.
Take into account the strain all this places on a young Jew, and it’s not difficult to grasp that the non-politically inclined might lack enthusiasm about an election in a foreign language.
This sentiment may actually be part of a broader phenomenon. There’s too high a frequency of young Jews that hear the word “Israel” and state “I’m not political.”
Israel is more than debates and politicians. Israel is economics, agriculture, arts, culture, science, technology, archaeology, food, music and so much more.
Those of us engaged in the debates and conversations often agree on this point. We might know it, but it’s time the Jewish community internalizes the message that follows.
If Israel is as diverse as we celebrate it to be, then it’s time we legitimise students for having varied relationships with the country.
We need to validate students for having honest, personal connections with the Jewish community and Israel that reflect them as individuals.
For the student that “isn’t political” and explores life beyond Parliament/Knesset, at UJS made a resource just for you.
You can find all the basics you need to start exploring the elections. If you like binge watching your favourite TV shows, enjoy online quizzes or are addicted to Twitter, we’ve got something for you. Because really, for you, why shouldn’t the Israeli elections be as exciting as a House of Cards or Scandal episode? (We’ve got parodies of both, just saying.)
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