Israel has eight million people. On Sunday, in preparation for today’s election, more than 200,000 of them gathered in separate political rallies. That’s almost three percent of the population on one day!

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We are a year and a half away from own major election. Yet, perhaps we can learn something from Israel.

1. People Matter: As Americans we tend to pick a president we would be most comfortable “having a beer with.” Political scientists confirm the centrality of criterion. Now this is not a bad criterion. The personality of our leader matters.

But what matters most is the person’s wisdom and worldview.

I don’t think many people would have enjoyed having a beer with George Washington. He was known to be incredibly stiff and arrogant. Yet, try to imagine our country without him.

Israelis care about personalities, too. Yet, surveys suggest people vote primarily on the basis of what a leader believes. They debate ideas with vigor and thoughtfulness. Rarely does one hear criticism based on a candidate’s political party. Criticism comes from a candidate’s statements and ideas. Here’s what matters:

2. Ideas Matter:  

We may live in the most cynical age of American politics. The money spent on presidential elections exceeds one billion dollars. Senate races demand tens of millions. And many voters think both parties care primarily about the rich. If we aren’t rich or powerful, should we just give up?

The Talmud—the primary post-biblical book of Jewish law and wisdom—contains my most cherished teaching. Attributed to the sage Hillel, it says “Do not separate ourselves from the community.” In other words, we cannot leave our fate in the hands of others. “A pox on both their houses” is not an acceptable political view.

In spite of all the money politics—a problem Israel face as well—our votes and participation matter. While around 50 percent of Americans vote in presidential elections, more than 70 percent of Israelis do. We can learn from their faith in democracy and themselves.

3. Teamwork matters:  

Israel is not a winner-takes-all democracy. Unless one political party out of the dozens gets a majority of the votes, which rarely happens, political parties have to form coalitions. Leaders with different points of view have to work with one another in order for government to function.

While this approach presents its own problems, we can learn from it. Imagine if the only way our politicians could keep their jobs was if they worked together? Instead of gaining political points by demonizing the other side, what if their livelihood depended on working  effectively with its members?

America is rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic of human dignity, freedom and rule of law. Israel is the place that gave birth to those values. It had much to teach us then, and it has much to teach us now.

Rabbi Evan

I show the way Jewish wisdom make our lives richer and happier. In particular, I help Jews appreciate their heritage and Christians uncover the Jewish roots of their faith. Get my FREE Jewish holidays cheat sheet by clicking here.

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