Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Election Selection

And so I am back from my trip to London, with a shiny new sister-in-law!

The wedding was lovely - very nicely done, fun to be involved in and my first time as a bridesmaid.

Four days was the perfect amount of time, methinks, to spend back in the Mother Country. The weather held out nicely, I squeezed in a few friends and had some time (not as much as I'd have liked, but 'some' is better than nothing at all) with my doggies, but unfortunately did not manage to hit up Primark.

And, with the wedding now out the way (until my sister's in August, BH) I turn my thoughts to the elections, Israeli and British. Because that's an apparent benefit of being a dual national.

Yes - once again, Israel is going to the polls. Today. Eek. I'm a newbie (yes, still, after 9 months) and it's a totally different kettle of fish to how we do it back in Blighty.

It seemed inevitable, really - a Middle Eastern nation, with security issues on all sides, full of hot-blooded natives, ever-increasing immigration (from 1st world and 3rd world countries alike) and using a highly contested electoral system. It's no surprise that agreements are unreachable and governments fall quickly. In fact, I'm surprised there aren't elections here every year. Having said that, during the last general election in Britain (which I also spent here in Israel), voters managed to break the country, bringing back the bad old days of coalition governments while ushering in the age of the ConDems.

Before we get into all that, let's take a second to compare these electoral voting systems.

Britain's First Past the Post (FPP) states that whichever party wins the most votes nationwide gets to rule. No fuss, Brit-style. Israel's Proportional Representation states that parties winning a certain amount of votes will get a certain amount of seats.

Now, before you say anything - yes, they are both shit. As my man Winny C once said,
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” And it's true. 
Back when I was a young, green (so green. so many shades of green is so many ways) A level Politics students (*cough* A grade), this was something all of us kids, who'd never voted in our lives, were still at school and who had really no idea what we were on about, discussed endlessly. 
While most of what we said was a load of utter pretentious crap (and it really was) I do recall a few points of wisdom which have stuck by me throughout my aliya, and especially now that I'll be voting in both countries. 
First Past the Post can give rise to 'dictatorial' styles of government. What they say goes, whether you like it or not, as long as they have a nice majority in the government and can push legislation through. It's a more stable, British sort of government, with little fuss and no awkward silences.
Proportional Representation, in all its glorious forms, is both a blessing and curse. Yes, minority parties get to have their say and get into government, but think about the sort of parties which could get in. In Israel, it means the extremes of left, right and meshuganas all over. It's a very unstable form of government, hence the frequently recurring elections. 
But that's what makes the Israeli electorate such an involved one, with a high voter turnout. And we do get a day off. So that's nice. 
But there is one thing that I still can't really get my head around, as born and bred Brit - back in my old country, you do not, under any circumstances - when meeting new people, at work, in polite society etc -  talk about who you're voting for or your political beliefs, unless you want to start a quiet but heated discussion and cause widespread offence.  
Really. In England, even when there are only actually 2,.5 parties (I count the 'Dems as .5, as I'm still convinced that Cleggover is a crappy half-baked clone of Cameron), discussing political views is considered a terrible, highly personal piece of information which you should not disclose, on a par with mentions of sex or religion. Stick to the weather, and we're all fine. Noone can disagree about how much rain there is, can they (apart from that one time when we all disagreed about the amounts of rain, BUT WE AGREED TO NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN)? 
Israeli politics is pretty confusing. Here, in the Holy Land, practical every day stuff  which is the main campaigning points for voters back in Blighty - taxes, petrol prices, employment - ain't the frontrunning issues.
Here, its about real, slightly more pressing things which could affect whether or not there's another war soon, if we're going to piss off the international community yet again, and if so by how much. Will people have to leave their homes if they live outside of the '67 borders, for example? It's all one massive mindf**k, and with the added Proportional Representation balagan, there is much less likelihood of a wasted vote. 
The candidates are just as confusing. There are so many names and histories floating about - this one used to be this minister; that one was a war hero; that one did....you get the picture. 
It is much easier to work out who you don't want to vote for, and even that's saying something. Your average Israeli will outright ask you who you're thinking of voting for, shout you down for making a silly choice and then tell you about who they're voting for and why. 

Really. There have been very few things that have been difficult to adjust to since I moved here, but this is probably the biggest. Back in England, I didn't care who knew of my political views, partly because I advertised them and partly because it didn't really mean very much. 

Back in the old, pre-aliya days, I was a true blue Conservative. Hell, I even once represented them and dressed up for the  school mock-election as Maggie Thatcher (I won 2nd place. I lost out only to the Monster Raving Loony Party, because they bribed the electorate of impressionable year 7s with chocolate. I hold no grudges - it was a pretty good tactic). Dammit, I once appeared on ITV and Channel 4 news meeting then-Tory leader Michael Howard. I was on first name, letter-writing terms with my MP and was in touch with him until recently, thanking him for his support for Israel during last summer's war. 

Here though...where my vote doesn't just rely on 'what's my tax situation going to be?' and 'who's more friendly towards Israel?' it's actually very tricky. They all have different views of the settlements. On the two state solution. On the Jewish Home bill.

Extremes of any sort are bad, in my books - both the right wing (breeding fascism, religious nutcases) and the left (breeding communism, self-hating apologists). I like the centre. 

Which, you'd think, would lead me to a nice, easy decision. 


My two preferences, Yesh Atid ('There's a Future') and Kulanu ('All of us') are the main centrist parties, discounting Bibi's Likud. I actually like Bibi - he's a fantastic speaker and not bad on the eyes, but he's not been strong enough on several things. That leaves me with the above. 

A pictorial representation of this dilemma

The bloke leading Yesh Atid - Yair Lapid - is also rather nice looking (it is a pleasant change to have a good looking party leader - that's something we don't get back in England) and speaks very well. He's a former journalist and his party comprises olim from all over the place. I like that. 

However, as the bf pointed out, he was a jobnik in the army - someone who's not really much to write home about. I countered by saying he has some great ideas for the country - there's a future, innit - to which he replied, 'what, is he going to interview Hamas to death?'. Touche. 

Moshe Kachlon, of Kulanu, on the other hand, is hot stuff. Also good looking (yeah, I said it), he was the bloke who broke the phone monopolies in Israel, making it a more competitive market. He's promised to do the same for other areas of society, but - according to my work wife, this is unlikely happen as he is besties with these naughty societal overlords. 

So I got into the booth earlier today. I saw all of the parties' acronyms (the way voting actually happens here is strange - your ID number is registered and you receive an envelope. You choose the acronym of the party you're voting for, seal it into your envelope and drop it into the ballot box. Interesting) and felt overwhelmed. Immediately eliminating the extremes of both left and right, I was left with the above choices. 

I cast that vote. I cast it real good. 

Eventually, I went with Yesh Atid. Because if there's one thing Israelis - native sabras, we're talking - will never understand, it's life outside Israel - being raised there and all that. 

It's all nice and well making policies for and about Israel left, right and centre, but without considering (even in the slightest, teensiest way) the impact it could potentially have on world Jewry? Or taking into account what olim here need and feel? Well that's something that has been pissing me off for years, pre and post-aliya. 

So I voted for the party who have unofficially tagged themselves as the party for Olim. I feel pretty damn proud of myself too for having exercised my democratic rights. 

Newbie voting
Oh and the British election? I'm voting Tory. Because old habits die hard, and Thatcher4LYF. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Purim, with a side of toast

Suddenly, the month of Smarch crept upon us. Here's my latest trouble-making turn, this time for the Times of Israel, telling of an experience I had with a disgraced politician. Upon posting it, I saw the ugly side of quite a few people I used to otherwise deem as fairly decent. Plus ca change :)

This week, I've taken a turn for the healthy, I'm also preparing for a trip back to the Mother country (Remember that country I was born in, but which I no longer deem home? Yeah, that one).

I ride the 2 miles into work and back every day - that's 4 miles! - am eating lovely massive salads for lunch (most days...) and the biscuit drought on my floor is definitely helping.

Talking of the office, the other night was the office's Purim party. Purim (the festival retelling the story of Queen Esther from the bible) is one of my favourite holidays ever (the other is Chanuka - doughnuts!) because it's a custom to dress up. It's the one time of year that I get to coat myself in glitter, or blood, or any available shiny or gooey substance of my choosing and dress up however I damn well please without fear of society shunning me.

It's a fun occasion back in Blighty - a few years ago during my teacher days, I dressed up in the school's uniform.

Miss Fliss gets OLD SKOOL

 Craziness ensued. I got shouted at by members of staff for being in the staff room; confused (and slightly drooly) looks from some of my older pupils; almost got pulled over when driving home (trying to explain that one to the police was awkward - 'no, it's a fancy dress costume...yes, fancy dress during the day...I'm a teacher, I promise!') and then went home to have a further confusing conversation with the builders at my parents' house, who couldn't understand what sort of a mother would let a school-age child live away from home, drive and wear bright red lipstick to said school.

Here are a selection of my other costume choices for Purim:

Courtney Love, many, many moons ago:

I committed to the role by smiling like a smackhead in a public setting

Another school one, the year after the 'school uniform' confusion: I dressed as a more generic, less provocative leopard (Hi Mel!)

'Raow'. That is all. 
And, the same year, with not quite la piece de resistance but pretty awesome nonetheless, I was Superwoman: 

It felt right.

And so this year, with the office party's costume competition (first prize: an electric bike), I decided to outdo myself, going as the bloodied Bride from Kill Bill.

My first costume choice was to be Gaymy Winehouse (don't even ask), and smother myself with glitter. Either way, I didn't win, but a great time was had by all. 

I would say that Purim here is the equivalent of Christmas back in England - it's a a kind of festive atmosphere where people get a bit silly and offices celebrate with lots and lots of free alcohol. One of the commandments of the festival is to get so drunk that, when you hear the megilla you can't distinguish between the hero, Mordechai and the villain, Haman (although surely that defeats the point, and you should really know who is who in the story? I digress). 

But anyhoo. What gwans at the office party, stays at the office party. And even if that includes crazy drag queens, pole dancers, unfair costume competitions (YELLOW #$@^&*% JUMPSUIT???) and potentially a snake dance at the end (it was rumoured to have happened, but alas, we will never know), so it shall be. 

On to more pressing matters.

In 5 days - that's 5 sleeps - I will be going back to London for the second time since my aliya for a very special occasion - my baby bro is finally getting married!

It's been an 18 month engagement, which seems to have gone both quickly and slowly. I haven't been that involved in much, mostly due to preparing for and making aliya (obviously). Consequently, I hadn't really thought about the steps which my bro and his fiancée (soon to be wife!) will be taking in under a week, and how it sort of heralds the true, marked beginning of adulthood.

Obviously, I'm an adult myself - I made aliya (again, not exactly news to you, is it?) alone, in the middle of a war, gave away one of the only things I ever loved with all of my heart, a month before that losing another, managed to get the various strands of my life together just in the nick of time before emigrating and doing it all over again 5 months later moving to a new city, with a new job and surroundings.

But my 'baby' brother - we're actually pretty close in age. We even ended up in university in the same school year. We hung around with the same groups of friends, went out together and had experiences that we will still never, ever disclose to our mum.

I would still kill using only my bare hands absolutely anyone who would even dare to harm him, although nowadays he's bigger than me and I'm pretty certain both he (and his intended, come to think of it) can aptly (only 'aptly') manage the job.

People used to think we were twins - as the only tall, blue eyed members of our family. This is my favourite picture of us, where we're half-drunk at an event I'd organised and pulling the stupidest, cheesiest grins because neither of us knows how to smile completely naturally at a camera.

With being so far away from my family, it hadn't really occurred to me that the wedding would actually creep up as it has done. And so this blog post has derailed into a toast, of sorts, to my darling brother.

So here it is, Pol- a toast to you: I know it'll be too difficult to tell you on the day, or before, or even after (such are the strictures on us, with my flight and the preparation for the wedding). I almost wish this was someone else's wedding so we could hang out and catch up a bit, but, as you know, you'll be a bit busy. And as a chick, and a bridesmaid I'll be right there, a little further away than I would like, on the other side prepping your misses-to-be.

My amazing, strong, mature (sometimes) and dare I say it - clever (EDIT - 'supremely intelligent', on your own admission) - little bro - I am so proud of you, and everything you have become.

I don't think we thought you'd ever get there, because let's face it - you were bloody lazy and not the most natural of students (think back to the twattish, but pointed, words of Mr Luca), but you really surprised us and proved us wrong in the biggest, bestest way possible.

I know that especially lately you've had my back, despite being 1000-odd miles away. And, if you were ever stupid enough to get into those sorts of situations, you know I'd irrevocably have yours too.

Talking of which. if you were to ever mess around with my 'Legend of Zelda' SNES file, all of the above is null and void.

You're one of the only people who understands the difference between coke and lemonade, celery juice; a psychopath named Mugetsu and some blokes called Sion, Kou and Volt; that sometimes you just have to 'have a thuck! have a biiig thuck!'; that 'special stuff' is only for Local People; that I don't need a hand, I need a FACE and that we should be moving forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

We're very happy that you're happy, Pol, and doing so well. You've never had it the easiest, but you've shaped your lot into something truly splendid, and the stuff you try in vain to explain sounds really impressive and important.

I don't think I've ever been prouder of you than I am right now, and that's really saying something - I once saw you wolf down something like 20 slices in a Pizza Hut Friday session.

So here's to you, little bro. See you soon.