Text size

The idea was simple: The Holocaust survivors would bring an ailing peer who would advocate legal uses for marijuana. He would speak Yiddish, in order to exploit the gimmick to the hilt, and a skilled videographer would film him for a televised election spot for the Holocaust Survivors and Grown-Up Green Leaf (Ale Yarok) party.

The slate members had gathered in the living room of survivor Yaakov Kfir (No. 2). List head Ohad Shem Tov, on behalf of Green Leaf, was there, along with No. 4 Yaakov Hollander, on behalf of the survivors. Hollander was to appear in the clip, and he wore a tailored suit. There was even a general idea for the text, something that would link physical suffering with the relief that marijuana can offer Holocaust survivors, among others.

From this point on, everything went wrong: The would-be photographer, from the Grown-Up Green Leaf party, was fast asleep, and his friends could not wake him. The survivor who was supposed to star in the broadcast, who told his horrifying life story during the long hours of waiting for the sleeping photographer, was more than willing to participate, but he had only two conditions: that he not be shown in the video (at all) and that marijuana not be mentioned. Shem Tov's dream of arousing the nation with something along the lines of "Ich bin groyse choyleh, ich vil marijuana," came face to face with reality, and shattered. Even with Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau, Billy Wilder would not have been able to direct a more bizarre scene.

Despite the sound of it, the Grown-Up Green Leaf party is not for those who have progressed from marijuana to harder drugs, but rather those who, in their own words, "have moved the party one step forward, while the other faction, headed by [Gil] Kopatsch, was stolen." Their partnership with the Holocaust Survivors is the hottest pairing in this election round. Call it bizarre, cynical, or crazy, but more than 7,000 Google hits in four days can't be wrong. Most are long articles by important international newspapers. The articles take a cautious tone, since non-Jews are careful about respecting the dignity of Holocaust survivors, even if these articles imply that in the Jewish state, anything can happen: In the Jewish state, of all places, they are being treated with contempt.

There are 33 lists competing in the 2009 elections. Up until five days ago there were 34, but the Mahapakh Bihinukh (Revolution in Education) party withdrew its candidacy, explaining that the war ruined its campaign. That is an all-time record, topping the 31 lists that competed for seats in the 15th and 17th Knessets. This abundance does not reflect a flourishing democracy, but mainly deepening despair with the functioning of the political system.

But there is a prosaic explanation as well: The success of the Pensioners Party in the 2006 elections gave everyone hope. Almost every fly-by-night party mentioned this. "We will be the surprise of the elections, just like the Pensioners," they promise. There are 33 lists, yet some voters are still complaining, "There's nobody to vote for."

Here is a brief tasting menu of alternatives the voter may have missed. Take, for example, Koah Hakesef (The Power of Money), and don't confuse it with Hakoah Lehashpia (The Power to Influence), the disabled persons' list, which excels in its penetrating election spots. Koah Hakesef advocates taking on the banks.

"I must do it in the name of 400,000 Israelis who are victims of the banks," says list head Eliezer Levinger. Levinger is an expert in examining bank accounts and calculating interest, but he is less skilled at calculating Knesset seats. A party survey found 6 percent of respondents would vote for their party if they knew it existed. They also have an election promise: As soon as the party reaches the Knesset, it will pass a law retroactively overturning all legal decisions made in favor of the banks without an accountant's review. Why is the slogan "Without accounting, there is no banking" less worthy than "Without loyalty, there is no citizenship"?

Anyone looking for more spiritual fields can turn to Brit Olam. If Madonna could vote in Israel, this would have been her party. List head Kinneret Golan-Hoz, a former media professional, has a soft, spiritual and enticing voice. "The quiet revolution is already here," the movement's Web site states.

There are also parties that are more establishment, like Lazuz (To Move): good people who want to end public corruption, and to invest the savings in the right places. They are so squeaky clean that party founders Amnon and Ye'ela Ze'evi aren't even running on the list, distancing themselves from any temptation of power. The first four candidates on the list gave Ze'evi signed NIS 1 million guarantees, in case they don't fulfill their election promises in the Knesset. Ze'evi, a 67-year-old economist, promises that if by some chance they don't get into the Knesset this time, they will run next time, too.

And one more idea, if you're still undecided: Leeder. In 2003 the Russian racist Vladimir Zhirinovsky starred in their election spots, but since then, they have linked up with Vladimir Putin's party, which is much better. This party has 322,000 minority members, mainly ethnic Russians. That does not mean that cosmopolitan Israelis are not invited to support them in their nationalist goals. Furthermore, they aren't Arabs. They may pass even Avigdor Lieberman's loyalty test.

If you are still trying to decide, and everything seems bizarre to you, remember the guy with the slogan "Youth Youth Youth" in the 1988 elections, who called for a university in Netanya. Since then, Netanya has gotten a college, and that's much more than what came of other election promises.