By Larry Gordon
Let’s see, two elections and a devastating storm. If you think life can be dull or uninteresting at times, these are not those times.
Over last Shabbos, as you may have seen in these pages, we had the privilege of hosting one of the most vibrant and on-her-way-up members of the Israeli parliament—MK Tzipi Hotovely of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud coalition. Those who heard her speak here in the Five Towns were awed by her erudition and insight into current world events as expressed by a young politician with a Torah-anchored hashkafah.
She’s so savvy that she decided late Saturday night to switch her Monday evening flight to a Sunday noon flight on El Al out of Newark, just a few hours prior to the New York area airports shutting down for the storm.
As we all learned the hard way over the last few days, this wasn’t just any pre-winter or tropical storm. This was one tough meteorological assault that has me writing these words from the well-lit and warm confines of a hotel room near JFK Airport. My home and office are dark and kind of cold. We stayed home that first night in the darkness listening to the howling wind gusts and wondering what kind of damage would be in evidence once the sun came up Tuesday morning.
And all the while I was thinking how MK Hotovely had the insight to see that despite the fashion in which she impressed those who heard her, she was taking a chance being away from Israel during this very abbreviated campaign for reelection to the Knesset. The Likud primary will take place on November 25 and the general election on January 22.
In between—actually next week—there is the matter of the U.S. elections on November 6, which have also taken a back seat to this hurricane named Sandy. Perhaps some would agree that we needed a bit of a respite from the nonstop barrage of political campaigning that seems to have started years ago and just grows in intensity with each passing day. I would concur with the idea of instituting a diversion from the campaign, but this was not it.
Actually, while I would like very much to pontificate about both Tzipi and Sandy, time, space, and limited electronic ability demand that I leave writing extensively on the two women for another week. For now, let it suffice to say that in my estimation Tzipi and Sandy are in many ways opposites of each other.
Tzipi Hotovely spent Shabbos communicating to us how special an experience it is to be part of the nation of Israel and to reside in the land of Israel. On the other hand, Sandy’s message was to remind us how small and insignificant we can be sometimes be and how vulnerable and subject to the whims of Mother Nature we really are. And while Tzipi exuded an unusual warmth, Sandy dished out 12 or more hours of the most random brutality, leaving victims scattered on every block that she recklessly traversed.
For those who spent time with and heard MK Hotovely lecture, it was a grand view of the possible. From this geographic distance, far too often we feel shut out and that our values are not represented at the government level in Israel. MK Hotovely addresses those very concerns with panache and her powerful intelligence.
But now is the election season in Israel, and that means that those with seats in the Likud, like Tzipi Hotovely, may have to fight to hold on to them. Yes, it’s true, four years ago she was handpicked by Prime Minister Netanyahu to be a part of his party and ruling coalition—but that was four years ago. During that time, she has been relentless in criticizing the prime minister when he stepped over lines that she and other right-leaning members of the government thought should not be crossed on issues like “settlements” and dealing with Iran. We can debate whether that was her role or whether the prime minister appreciated being so deeply criticized by what he thought were his own people.
As a result of these political realities, she is forced to scurry around for campaign contributions to demonstrate the support she enjoys not just in Israel but in Jewish communities around the world just like ours. To an extent, that is why she was here.
In fact, we may have been aware that Hurricane Sandy was arriving before we knew MK Hotovely was going to be spending Shabbos here. I think the big difference was that we took the Hotovely visit seriously and did not pay sufficient attention to the Sandy situation.
Of course there is really no comparison between the two. Tzipi Hotovely is the real thing and a real person. Sandy was, well, a weather system, a mammoth and destructive one at that. She wreaked havoc, destroyed, killed, and upset people’s lives in a severe and even unprecedented fashion around here. Recovering, cleaning up, and trying to get things back or close to normal will take a lot of time.
I received an e-mail from Ms. Hotovely the other day asking how we were doing in light of the severity of the hurricane. I shared with her the contrast that I thought was the difference between her and Sandy. I told her how impressed and even overwhelmed we were with her, and that in my estimation she had taken this community by storm. v
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