Yes, it’s a real expression here to say, “Happy Democracy Day”. Of course, it sounds better in Hebrew. And of course, it took me, as an Olah, until the third election to learn it. The value of democracy is the balm to soothe the pain of having to go back to the third round of elections in a year. The right to vote and freedom of opinion is a privilege. Rights I took for granted in Australia, now not to be assumed in this tough, Middle Eastern neighbourhood.
Israel has its faults. In my eyes failing to form a unity government has been a major disappointment. But I take to the streets and see the blossoming almond trees carpeting the pavements with white petals like snow. Bustling shopping centers, like Canyon Hadar in Talpiyot this past Friday, not the prettiest area in Jerusalem but one of the most vibrant, socially diverse and energetic. There are young people outside, belting out the blues on a street piano by the bus station. Inside there’s a Friday, pre-Shabbat market with stalls of French macaroons, challah, and specialist dips and spreads on sale. Many people mill about through the shops and stalls, amongst them hijabed women. Hebrew and Arabic intermingle in the din of full coffee tables and long Burger Bar lines. There’s no tension or feeling that there is an election coming up. There are only lives being lived.
When you see someone for the third time in Israel you buy them ice cream. So the third election day has been deemed free ice cream day, with gelaterias throughout Jerusalem handing out free ice cream. Okay not exactly free, but for orders over twenty shekels. (The best Jerusalem Gelateria is definitely Mousseline, especially their Arabica Coffee flavour. Aldo’s pistachio flavour is also definitely worth a try.) Ben & Jerry’s has come up with a new flavour in honour of this third election, called “One Sweet Vote”. You can’t say Israelis don’t have a sense of humour.
So whilst this third election is serious, Israelis focus on what they do best – living and laughing. There’s more talk about where to go on election day rather than who to vote for; by the third time what’s there to discuss anymore? The focus of the day is eating ice cream, family and friends and visiting forests and picnic spots. Enjoying the red Anemone flowers and wild, lavender cyclamen which are in bloom as winter splutters to an end and spring unfurls with hope for a better election result and a big thumbs up to democracy.