Published in The Jerusalem Post on May 16, 1999
It took God a long time to make His decision.
Not that He didn’t know. God knows all. It was just that He couldn’t quite believe what was happening, even as He was watching it all unfold.
This ugly, abominable election campaign, God thought to himself. So much infighting, so much hatred. Tearing themselves apart, these Israeli Jews. “Where did I go wrong…”
God, of course, had long seen it coming. It had begun with a quiet erosion of common values and traditional beliefs; then a rejection of shared political and national symbols. And then, gradually, a growing sense of alienation and resentment that one part of the nation came to feel towards the other.
Fanatic clerics, unwilling or unable to articulate the relevance of tradition in a scientific, modern world, made things worse. The soothsayers and phony mystics among them dragged believers back into the unenlightened past. And when they got involved in politics….
Yes, I saw it coming, God thought. My people were led astray. That militantly secularist fringe, rabidly campaigning to deconstruct any residual Jewishness in the only Jewish state on the face of the globe. The sloganeering rang painfully in God’s ears: “We have to stop them…” Them. Which Jews were ‘them’?
And worst of all, there were the leaders, those voraciously power-hungry prime ministerial wannabes – hungry enough to employ raw hatred and adopt any negative campaign device in order to savage the opponent and win another vote. Jewish unity be damned. And each claiming Him for their own: “God is on our side”!
Peace with the Arabs they can promise the electorate, mused a dispirited God to himself. But harmony among the Jews isn’t on the agenda…
How quickly they forgot the real teachings of old, God sighed. Do they not remember Rabbi Abba Bar Cahana’s dictum: “Peace among Jews is paramount; for even if Israel worships idols, but nevertheless is bound together by harmony – the Divine Presence dwells among them”.
The Lord toyed with the idea of instigating a little war. That always helped mend things, as Israelis would rally around the flag, forgetting their differences to fight the enemy. But God discarded the idea. He wasn’t sure that even a war would unite the people anymore, and the cost to human life wasn’t justifiable.
At that point, God began to pack.
There wasn’t all that much that He decided to take, even after four thousand years: A picture of Abraham making that first crossing into Canaan — that had some sentimental value, and some Biblical chapters: promises to the Children of Israel and the like.
Into His case went a couple of pages by Rabbi A.Y. Kook and a few by David Ben-Gurion. And that magnificent picture of the soldiers at the Western Wall in 1967.
Then there was a long list of names of young men and women — religious and secular, European, North African, native Israeli — who had in earlier days thought that Israel meant something more than a convenient economic base for business and hi-tech development, and had been willing to pay for that belief with tears and blood.
True, He didn’t really need the list, but respect for the sacrifices of the Zionist pioneers made Him feel obliged to take the names with Him.
Into God’s valise also went some earth of the Land of Israel that hard work had made richer, and the echoes of some folk songs that had been on the lips of so many people fifty years before. Songs from a time when His people had believed — all of them, not just the formally-religious ones — that they really had brought heaven down to earth.
Ah yes, reminisced the Lord, there was really a time when Jews had joined together to do something that mattered beyond their own consumerist desires, income levels and demands for unrestricted personal ‘freedoms’.
He put all these mementos in His suitcase and debated whether and where to go. Twice, He had sent His children into exile as punishment for their loss of faith. But what faith is it that they’ve lost, God wondered, that in the end would lead them to exile Him?
“Stop!”, cried the angels. “Israel cannot survive without your Divine Presence. Its people are virtuous, filled with good deeds ‘like a pomegranate’. Don’t ascribe the sins of the leaders to the meritorious masses”.
With one foot out the door and tears in his eyes, God hesitated. After all, it was election day.
Without putting down His travel bag, He stopped by the polling booth. And, in the ultimate vote of no-confidence, God dropped a blank ballot into the box, and shuffled sadly away.