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2021 Preview: Israel Awaits Restoration and Transformation

Everything changed because of the pandemic. That is — except our political system.
[additional-authors]
December 15, 2020
Police officers man a road stop during Israel’s second lockdown. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

We wait. Israelis wait.

What for?

We wait for COVID-19 vaccinations to begin — hopefully as soon as next week. The prime minister of Israel is slated to take the first shot on Saturday night, live for everyone to watch.

We also wait for a third lockdown. I know, it’s quite absurd to discuss a third lockdown alongside the vaccine, but that’s the way things are. Today in Israel, 2,200 new infections were registered. The cabinet already decided that when we hit 2,500 new cases, all commerce will be shut down — again. If this will not be sufficient, we are headed the way of the Netherlands (who just started their own lockdown).

We also wait for next Wednesday, December 23. That is the last day in which new elections can be prevented. If there is no political turnaround by then, and no legislation passes by which to mark an agreed-upon election day, then March 23 it is. Mark your calendars: this is three days before Passover. A holiday we hope and expect to celebrate with our extended families — that is, if all goes well with the vaccine.

We wait.

What for?

We wait for 2021. One of the nice things about being Jewish is the ability to live with a two dimensional calendar. We live by the Jewish calendar and also by the Gregorian calendar. We conclude a year before Rosh Hashanah but can add a midterm conclusion at the end of the secular calendar that we use alongside most of the rest of the world.

So we wait for 2021. We wait for it to be the reverse of 2020. In the year that is about to end, the world turned upside down because of the pandemic, and Israel’s politics remained unmoved. Immobile. Businesses closed down, patients died on respirators, hospitals worked in emergency mode, civilians stayed indoors, offices were empty, roads vacant. Everything changed because of the pandemic. That is — except our political system.

Everything changed because of the pandemic. That is — except our political system.

Our politicians kept saying that we are in a special situation, that these are no ordinary times. But their actions did not befit their words nor the state of affairs. They kept using polarizing language, kept plotting against one another and kept looking for an immediate political gain rather than the greater good. For us, the people, 2020 was the opposite of 2019. For our politicians, 2020 was the undisrupted continuation of 2019.

So we wait for 2021 to be the opposite of that. We wait for 2021 to be a year in which the old habits — those of 2019 — will be restored. We wait for restaurants to open up, for offices to fill, for roads to be congested, for businesses to compete, for families to celebrate as families. To sit to the Seder (did I mention that the Seder is possibly just three days after Election Day?) with parents and brothers, with nephews and aunts. We want 2021 to be like 2019 except for one thing: politics. We wait for our political arena to be turned upside down in 2021. It is time for our politicians to go through the hell and fire that beseeched their constituencies this year.

2021 ought to be a year of restoration of civilian life and transformation of political life. So, we wait. For the vaccine to perform its magic. For the lockdown to put a final nail in the pandemic’s surge. For the Knesset to dissolve and let Israel have a go at political transformation. On New Year’s Eve — a day I never considered as my holiday — I might drink to that.

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