As a person, I mean?
One of our major politicians reminds me of a weasel (and not in a good way). I don't really trust several others. I think one national leader is charismatic but not sincere and I think most have egos that rival the size of Texas...which might work in the US, but definitely not here. When I have met politicians, I usually felt that they had the feeling they were coming down to my world - a sad but necessary reality if you live in a democracy, they make it clear. Once in a while, you have to meet the people. Probably the only thing worse than a politician, is a celebrity!
So, I was pleasantly surprised when I went last week to a "political" meeting to meet two relative celebrities who have decided to run for the Knesset. I'd seen them once before from a distance that cannot be measured in meters but rather in concept.
Friends pulled us along to a creative and witty show - Tuesday Night Live. We got seats up in the balcony – miles from the stage. We could see the people but large screens helped us see the faces. Broadcast globally but hosted here in Jerusalem, Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel are entertaining and dynamic, and more. They are smart - and know their audience - both here in Israel and abroad. Celebrities, I thought – but hey, I laughed and clapped and enjoyed it so it was an evening well spent with friends. Pizza and diet coke made it perfect and that was that. Maybe I'd try to catch them again if I found the time…I never did.
But the memory of that one evening remained with me. There were two things I noticed and appreciated. The first was that as they spoke - they automatically translated any Hebrew word into English. This was out of consideration to foreign audiences. Others might have given up on the Hebrew completely – but they didn't. It was important to let others hear the Hebrew but consideration and wanting to make sure they were understood meant spending that extra few seconds translating. They were naturals, that was clear. They were funny and lively...but most of all, what touched me as they interviewed the mother of a fallen soldier - was that they were sensitive too. They let her talk; let her tell the story of her son. The ego of so many celebrities and politicians just wasn't there. It really wasn't about THEM, it was about the message they wanted to send out from Jerusalem and we were all part of that message.
I got an invitation as a blogger to go meet them. They had set up an evening for bloggers, treated us like royalty with front row seats and the first chance to ask questions. So I went, wanting to see if these were truly the same people I had liked from afar and what these celebrities were doing wanting to move into politics. The first thing that struck me was a comment they made as they each explained where they were going. More important than getting into the Knesset, they told the audience, was getting their message across. But it was not said in a politician's voice meant to fool you into thinking they are humble – they came across as people who wanted to make a difference in this country.
And what is their message? It's time for a change in Israel - but not the same change that is promised every election year and then forgotten. Jeremy and Ari have a plan. They have a plan for implementation; they have not just ideas but directions and they detailed what they plan to bring to Israel, their party, and the country:
Accountability - Jeremy and Ari plan to report back to their constituents - and there's a concept that is foreign for most Israeli parties. I was a member of the Likud for more than a decade and never felt I was a constituent. The opposite, actually. Each time there should have been primaries allowing me to vote, there was a tremendous effort, often successful, to block the vote of the membership. Those in control didn't want to give people a chance to really tell them how we felt. I was nothing to them - until they needed to roll me out to vote and then I was tucked back into a corner and ignored. More than once, they "stole" my vote to implement policies that were in direct contradiction to the ones they used to get our votes!
Transparency - Jeremy and Ari plan to let us know what they do, why, when, where. They'll tell us what they vote for and what they vote against. There won't be any of these backdoor, under the table agreements and that too is revolutionary in Israel.
Accessibility – And they'll make themselves available to the people – but really. Within two weeks of my trying to reach them - they promise someone will get back to me. They gave me their phone number - not just me - everyone. It's on their posters! I wouldn't have a clue how to speak to Netanyahu and the few times I was in the same room with him, he was whisked in while we were told to remain seated. He spoke while we were encouraged to clap; and then he left, while we were again told to remain seated. I want to reach my leaders; I want to tell them what I'm afraid of, what I need, what I want. Accessibility…wow.
Empowerment - Jeremy and Ari plan to empower their party members - especially those of us who were born in Anglo countries. We accept, too often, the way things are and don't realize we can fight for our rights; we're entitled...and there's a concept...we're entitled to an explanation and they want to help us get it. And more, as English speakers, they have a unique commitment to make government available – in English. Dial 1 for Hebrew, 2 for Russian, and 3 for Arabic – and they want to add Dial 4 for English.
Another huge difference is that most politicians speak in the negative - they'll tell you all that is wrong with the current government and eventually, hopefully, and usually with not much detail, they'll tell you what they hope to fix. By contrast, Jeremy and Ari seem particularly confused by one simple thing - how is it possible that every Israeli doesn't know and believe that this is absolutely the only place, the best place to live in the entire world?
They are enthusiastic about Israel, the land, the people, the future. Both have served in combat units, both have fought for this land. I really hope they will have a chance again to fight - this time in the political arena. The work they could do there could easily be as important as what they did years ago in the army and what they have done in the years since.
They bring excitement, vitality and determination to a jaded world filled with political favors and corruption. I like them. I can talk about politics and positions, theories and promises - but I can't remember the last time I actually liked someone I voted for...I like them!