Opinion

My Handyman Dani, an Israeli Role Model

Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters after the general election, Tel Aviv, September 18, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

Dani Dahan (not his real name) is a man of many talents. He’s an electrician and a plumber, and knows how to solve any problem I encounter at home. For years, I’ve contacted Dudi anytime something goes wrong or needs improvement, or anytime something needs a creative touch. He never disappoints. In the long hours during which he, with endless patience, contends with problems I identify or have created, we talk about this and that. We try not to slide into politics, since Dudi is a diehard Likudnik, with all his soul, and I find that difficult.

He’s connected to all of Bibi’s communication channels, disseminating on WhatsApp hair-raising stories he gets about harassment of Netanyahu family members, and he unreservedly buys in to displays of victimhood, incitement and mudslinging put on by the Likud leader. In the past, when I asked him why he doesn’t consider other modes of political thinking, he told me honestly that he was afraid. He was afraid that the Arabs will wipe out this country; that the left will give it up; he is afraid of losing, of the unknowable. So, he votes for Bibi.

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On September 17 Dudi voted for Benny Gantz. “Don’t ask, I was such an idiot,” he recounted. “I stood behind the curtain for five minutes before putting the slip in the envelope.” But he did, voting Kahol Lavan. He doesn’t regret it.

I asked him what happened, what brought him to do that. He hesitated. I guessed: “Your child or wife?” “Both”, he replied sadly. “But not just them.” He could no longer take the vulgarization, the aggression, the rapaciousness and the hatred. I asked him what had changed compared to the last election, and he said that up to now he had managed to live in denial. It’s not that he hadn’t heard about the extravagance, the lies and the abuse of power, he’d just chosen not to believe. It’s not that he hadn’t noted the incitement and inflamed emotions, he’d just chosen not to be shocked. But the evidence had accumulated to such dimensions that he could no longer bear the ugliness, deciding to face it and recognize it. The cognitive dissonance was too costly. “I couldn’t have done it on my own,” he admitted with honesty.

“With a few friends, all lifelong Likud voters, we began to talk. We realized that these stories about him could not all be made up. All the criminal cases, all the employees at their residence who complained about his wife – it was just too much. And the propaganda, the spin, too,” The conclusion? A change was needed. It was time. Whatever the consequences, it simply couldn’t go on any longer.

Dudi displayed rare courage. He dared examine himself, his beliefs, his accustomed, comfortable and safe position, the one that was self-evident to him. He dared to make a change. He overcame his fear of the state being annihilated, of losing the protective father figure, his fear of change. He now hopes for the best and does not regret making the leap.

Dudi’s awakening is one of the gladdest things that’s happened to me in this country for a long time. I’d already stopped believing that such a change was possible. So thank you media men and women who did not give up and continued reporting Netanyahu’s malfeasance even when it seemed these reports were falling on deaf ears. Thank you to the men and women of the law enforcement authorities, who did not cease in their professional labors despite the persecution and slander. Thank you to Kahol Lavan members, who decided to jump in and try and offer an alternative government that Dudi can put his faith in.

If Dudi managed to overcome his fears, we can too. This includes senior Likud officials who so far have not dared acknowledge what they’ve known for a long time; many of us who have to date not dared trust Israel’s Arab citizens enough to include them in managing this country as equal citizens; men and women of the “old elites” who haven’t really opened up to Israelis who are different than they are; Israeli men and women who are afraid to relinquish their feelings of resentment and being left behind; people who are afraid of African migrants, and many others.

Without daring we can’t bring about a change. Without a change we won’t have a good future. A new year is a good time to decide on civic courage. Dudi showed us the way; we should follow in his footsteps.