How Can the National Union Change Israel

I was asked “How can ‘National Union – National Religious Party’ change Israel”. I tried to write something long, philosophical and complicated in response, but decided to leave it for later, and to write something simple and short instead.

First, i voted for the National Union, because i had made a very firm decision not to vote for any party that supports evicting settlers for any reason. I love the libertarian anarchy of Green Leaf, the firm-but-pragmatic ecological platform of the Green Party and the commitment – at least on paper – of Meretz to human rights (though not their socialism); i also have to admit that Our Home Israel (Lieberman) was very tempting with a platform that was pragmatic in a good Russian way (you have to be Russian/Soviet to fully understand it) – but for me it was too pragmatic; and, with all my sympathy to B. Netanyahu’s economic policies, i didn’t count on Likud to be firmly against irresponsible land concessions. So, out of thirty-one parties, i was left with only three options – Herut, Jewish National Front and NU-NRP. Herut is too small and irrelevant and JNF is a fanatical, racist and war-loving one-man party. So i voted for NU-NRP. But now i’m going to prove that it was more than mere elimination.

NU-NRP remind me of the Mormons a little. Try this as a thought experiment:

  1. Take Mormons.
  2. Forget that they believe in an unusual story about Jews that lived in America two thousand years ago1.
  3. Forget that some of them used to practice polygamy.
  4. Forget that they are sometimes dressed in funny ill-fitting clothes.
  5. Don’t forget that they are encouraged in every way to have a good job and be good at what they do there.
  6. Don’t forget that they don’t convert anyone to their faith by force, not even their own children (at least according to their official doctrine).
  7. Don’t forget that they have (relatively) stable families and good education system, which teaches not only sciences but values too.
  8. Don’t forget that Mormons that live in the USA love their country with all their heart, but are able to be criticize it when it is due.
  9. Now let them run the country. Is it so bad?

I have a lot of reasons not to vote for NU-NRP. They are socially conservative – for example, they are against gay rights, which is quite disgusting. They want to ban pornography and oppose public transportation on Sabbath, which is quite ridiculous. They quietly support the corrupt and wasteful system of taxpayer-funded religious services; Shinui did their best to reform it, but they collapsed before finishing the work, and now the religious parties will try to revive it.

But they have their good points. And those good points are the reason why i decided to give my precious vote to them not just because there was no-one else to vote for. Except the unfortunate and ridiculous things which i mentioned, they are conservative in a good way. They believe in strong families; it may sound boring and Republican, but i don’t see anything good in the slow suicide which the societies in Russia and EU are collectively committing either (and i don’t buy no over-population myths).

The NU-NRP believe in good education – good old education, which doesn’t reduce sciences and arts to subjects of a good grade on a matriculation test; which doesn’t shorten the list of topics to be learnt at grammar classes every year; which chooses teachers carefully and pays them well; in which school discipline in based – at least is theory – on heritage, respect and reason and not on metal detectors.

Also, they believe in Jewish education. Many people think that Jewish education is all about memorizing old, weird and irrelevant books; that in Jewish religious schools pupils spend more time praying than studying sciences and that they don’t learn anything valuable, such as History, Math and English. These claims may be true to a certain degree about some Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) schools, but NU-NRP is not Ultra-Orthodox. The level of science education in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish schools is proven to be higher than average. They do study religious books – because that’s what Jews did for ages and ages, and it wasn’t so bad. The Jews are not alone in studying their ancient heritage – for example, not all Italian students receive good grades in their Latin classes, but at least they know who Cicero, Caesar and Pliny were. Pupils who study in secular schools hardly learn any Bible and they graduate without even knowing how a page in any other religious book looks like and in what language it is written (the Hebrew of Mishna and Halakha books has a distinctive style and the Aramaic of Gemara is a different language altogether). But in Israel many secular people say that those books are obsolete and no time should be wasted on them. What do they know. You see, i haven’t heard of a secular school that teaches explicitly that slander and gossip are inherently and universally wrong. I haven’t heard of a secular school that teaches that not only stealing and cheating is bad, but that selling an item for more than its market price is a terrible crime just as well. That’s education in the fullest sense of the word. It’s true that not everyone who studied in such a school growed up to be completely honest and well-behaving, but secular schools don’t even try to educate that way. They barely care about test grades.

However, as it often happens, the religious education can blame only itself for the ignorance of the secular people about this heritage. In the past NRP representatives were often appointed as Ministers of Education. They had built a splendid Jewish education network – but only their voters could enjoy it, because they didn’t apply any of these methods to the rest of Israel and few secular families would consider sending their children to a religious school. And they payed the price – hardly anyone gave a damn about the religious schools that were demolished in Gush-Katif for no sensible reason. If the general public would understand the “National Religious” community just a little bit more, it would all be so different.

So why did i vote for them anyway? Because this mistake was so grave that i hope that they finally understood it and will do something about it. That they will approach the secular schools and change it in such a way that all children in Israel will know something about their heritage and no-one will think that people with kipas on their heads waste their time on stupid old books. And maybe people will cheat a little less in business. But that will take years – and in the meantime they’ll stop the madness called “evicting the settlements”.

Now when anyone tells me – “You can’t be serious, how could you vote for this single-issue settlers’ party??”, that’s my explanation why they are not a single issue party and why it is not so weird that i, a secular free-thinker, vote for a party that represents “conservative values”, “strong families”, and “heritage education”.

OK, so it was very long. That’s how i write.

1If you are a Latter-Day Saint and you were offended by it, i sincerely apologize. It is a fact that there are some people who think that the Book of Mormon is rather unusual.


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