Meet My New Israeli Political Party, ‘Ego’

Jewish models of leadership demand that leaders reflect their constituencies. What an inconvenience.

Welcome to my new Israeli political party. It's called Everyone Get On board – Ego for short. Don't think that I did not receive many invitations to occupy the number two slot on the lists of dozens of other parties. I did. But the radical goal of this party is shameless self-promotion and that's hard to achieve unless you are number one. Furthermore, as an idealist, I believe that I must play my part in fragmenting the centrist vote between so many parties that none of us stand a chance of being elected. Since I understand that it's unfair to expect Israelis to read so many party manifestos, I commit to having no new policies of my own; my party will be identical to all the other centrist parties.

It's true that I lack political experience, but so do most of the other people setting up new parties. The astute among you may have noticed the lack of women in high spots on my party list. Once again, I can only assure you that in this we are no different to all the others. For the purposes of transparency, I am prepared to concede my shortcomings. I currently lack a criminal record and a military background, which may be a small disadvantage, but I'm sure I can find a retired general, a burglar and a rabbinic sage with time on their hands to join me for photo shoots.

Jewish models of leadership inconveniently demand that leaders reflect their constituencies. I feel a bit like the ambitious young hassid who rushed into his rabbi's chamber. “Rebbe", he said, "Last night, I dreamt that I too became a Rebbe." The elderly sage was less impressed. "Yes", he replied, "but did any of the Hassidim dream it too?”

Moses, our greatest leader, is described as "The most modest of men" (Numbers 12: 3). God teaches him that the interests of the Jewish people must always take priority over those of their leaders. This is spelled out when Moses is engaged in the ultimate religious experience of receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai while the Jewish people worship the Golden Calf down below. God orders Moses to drop everything and climb down the mountain. According to the Talmud, God told him, "Get down from the mountain. What need have I for you in this exalted state of spirituality when the people are in trouble? Go back where you belong, to the people whom you lead" (Talmud Berachot 32a).

My hopes that my political career will allow me to make a fast buck and mingle with the rich and famous also take a knock from Jewish tradition. Moses launches his political career by abandoning his privileged life in Pharaoh's palace to empathize with his enslaved brethren. The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 1: 27) portrays him sharing the slaves' burden; lending a hand where he can and making representations to Pharaoh to give them a day of rest. His willingness to risk his life for the people and his scrupulous honesty make Moses one of the few world leaders who could honestly declare, "I have not taken even a single donkey of theirs, nor have I wronged even one of them" (Numbers 16: 15).

Ego only supports Jewish interests (preferably those of my family and friends). It will consistently ignore the needs of Israel's minorities, even though this is also a grotesque distortion of Jewish tradition. God only sends Moses on his mission after he has demonstrated kindness and justice for the gentile daughters of Jethro and to a hapless young lamb.

I am struggling with the fact that Ego's program contravenes Jewish ideals. One solution, as has been successfully deployed by other parties, is to declare ourselves "The only truly Jewish and Zionist party." That slogan is guaranteed to distract the electorate from our complete lack of Jewish values.

On second thoughts, perhaps I'll shelve my plans until the next election. Hopefully by then the center-left parties will have realized the need to align themselves into a coalition committed to building our magnificent country on the basis of security, peace and justice.

 

Rabbi Gideon Sylvester is the British United Synagogue's Rabbi in Israel and directs the education program for the Jerusalem branch of the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program in Judaism and Human Rights


 

Eyal Toueg, Moti Milrod, Nir Kafri and David Bachar