Ever since I was a little boy I have liked election day. I always enjoyed going to the polls with my parents at the local elementary school and when it came time for me to vote on my own I proudly and consistently went to the polls, both in South Carolina and later in Maryland. I even hounded some of my more apathetic friends urging them to go vote. With all that said, today's elections were different for me. While I always felt that voting as a democratic ideal was important, voting in the States never felt quite as pressing and important as it felt today. In the States the choices of parties and candidates never struck me as particularly different. The majority of people feel no impact on their daily lives whether the Democrats or Republicans control Congress or sit in the White House. Here in Israel, the impact of an election can have a long lasting and drastic impact on the future of the State. Voting here seemed to have an existential feeling...like any one vote could really make the difference in the future of the country and therefore in our lives.
After minyan this morning I walked over to the social hall where the polling for Neve Daniel was being held. I walked in, presented my teudat zechut (my national identity card), was given a small blue envelope with the menorah embossed on the outside and asked to step over to the little voting cubby. I selected the little slip of paper with the letters representing the party that I was voting for, slipped it into the envelope and, with a proud sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction, dropped my first ballot as an Israeli into the ballot box.
As I walked passed the people in the line who were waiting their turns, a couple of people jokingly asked me if I had said the shechiyanu prayer (the prayer of thanks said when reaching significant milestones). A number of Israeli friends and acquaintances asked me what it was like voting for the first time today, which made the day that much more special. It was nice to feel like our friends and neighbors understand the significance of our voting as Israelis for the first time.
At this point, it doesn't appear that the elections are going the way that we would like. However, regardless of the outcome, today we reached another milestone on our path of Aliyah and being Israeli.
May we all wake-up tomorrow to a new day and have our new leaders be blessed by Hashem with the wisdom and fortitude they will need to steer this little ship called Israel in the wild sea of the Middle East.