Sunday, March 29, 2015

Primarily Primal: A "Recipe" for Pesach

A “Recipe” for Pesach
Ilana Rosansky

How do we know it’s spring time?  Do you think that the bright yellow and purple crocuses and daffodils really herald spring? Well, they might, but it seems to me that the fragrance that heralds spring is furniture polish and dish detergent and old boxes in the garage or the
basement.  Spring cleaning, cooking, baking, hauling boxes of ‘stuff’. Isn’t that what Pesach has come to mean for us? We literally turn our homes upside down and inside out before Pesach. And if we’re having company for seder, we turn ourselves upside down and inside out (with anxiety) before Pesach, too.

I don’t know what it is about Pesach and family tradition. My Mother z”l always cooked late at night after we kids had gone to bed. My Mother was a ‘lone Pesach zombie cook’. I wonder what she thought about all night long after my father had shlepped up the last carton from the basement and brought down the last utensil or bowl from the cupboard “too high” for her to reach, above the refrigerator, and we kids had finally gone to bed.  Because, sure enough, every Pesach (before we had a dishwasher, other than me, and even after we finally got a dishwasher), my mother would be banging and battering, running water, slamming doors, opening the oven, closing it. You could hear the steam rise with a tell-tale whistle on the magical little vent on the pressure cooker. You could smell all the wonderful foods, and the eggs (which she always made the night before).

Talk about tradition! Every year my mother had seder — both nights. There were mostly relatives the first night and mostly friends, the second — except for those relatives who were regulars both nights, and those relatives who didn’t really like the ones who came first night!  And my father, brother and I were conscripted laborers and gophers for this event, year after year until my parents finally retired from the seder business, in the early 80s, moved to Florida, and started going to ‘organized’seders.

And just as reliably, year after year, while my mother would be banging and clanging and creating in the kitchen, my father would go through his Pesach rituals.
He would clean his desk (and the dining room and living room, and elsewhere) of
unnecessary papers — and our house had lots of paper, everywhere; both of my parents were avid readers and they were both teachers.  Sometimes my father would even remove books from the bookshelves and carefully vacuum the dust from the books and from the
shelves. I used to love to watch him put the books back — just so — on the shelves (not so far back that they hit the back wall of the bookcase, but not right up to the edge of the shelf, either). And each year, my Dad would bring out all the haggadahs from the cupboard in his study alcove. And the matsah cover, with years of wine stains, from his parents’ seders. And he would meticulously pour sweet kiddush wine from a big bottle into various decanters. When I was very young, the big bottles were 5-gallon bottles of wine my grandmother had made, which, since we drank wine only on Pesach, lasted a long time after she died. It was a genuine end-of-an-era when we finished the last of Grandma’s thick, dark, sweet wine — right down to the gritty dregs. To this day, I can’t get used to drinking anything but heavy sweet wine for the 4 cups, and I am still looking for the perfect sweet, dark wine that would come close to the taste of my grandmother’s wine...

I was thinking about all of these rituals the night before erev Pesach one year, as I performed the same long lonely all-night vigil — banging and clanging. Running downstairs, looking for missing Pesach dishes, cooking, peeling, boiling and baking. What would Pesach be like, I wondered, if everything were somehow magically finished by a reasonable bedtime, the night before erev Pesach? Would Pesach be as meaningful without the endless, back-achy exercises I put myself through during the wee hours?

OK. So that particular year, was a bit more strained than usual. So the kitchen sink drain backed up about 2 a.m., and for every drop of water I needed I had to try to make do with the bathroom sink!!!  OK. Yes. You really can slip the skins off cooked beets under the faucet in the bathroom. You can shell hard-boiled eggs in the bathroom, but what a schlep!

Yes. I think there is more to the night before erev Pesach than mere food preparation. I think, that in spite of all the work and planning and chaos, important spiritual work gets done here. There is something meditative about solo food preparation. I actually think that making charoset the old way, with a chopper and wooden bowl is more conducive to meditation. You can think about God, and the miracles wrought in Egypt and at Yam Suf the Sea of Reeds a whole lot easier when you are chop, chop, chopping. Somehow, the food processor “doesn’t cut it” — as a spiritual experience, that is. ‘Chop, chop, chop’ works better for me, anyway, than ‘on-off-on-off’.  Well, that may be a matter of personal preference.

I don’t know what my mother thought about each year before Pesach. I kept meaning to ask her; now I no longer can. But I notice that, since the time of the Torah, we Jews have been hooked on recipes and meticulous detail. Take our Torah reading for the maftir on Pesach morning:
And in the first month on the 14th day ofthe month, is the Lord’s Passover. 
On the 15th day a festival begins; seven
days matsot should be eaten. The
first day shall be a sacred holiday when you should do no mundane work. As a
burnt offering to God, you shall offer two young bulls, one ram, and seven
yearling sheep, making sure that all are without blemish. The grain offering
that you must present should consist of wheat meal mixed with oil, 3/10 for
each bull, 2/10 for the ram, and 1/10 for each of the seven sheep. And one
sin-offering goat to make atonement for you. These are presented in addition to
the morning burnt offering, the regular daily sacrifice... The food of the
offering made by fire should be a sweet fragrance...

I think that we have these explicit recipes, so that we can have a mantra of sorts; so we can transcend all the detail and connect with God. I think God is right there in our kitchens helping us prepare ourselves spiritually while we prepare food for our families and friends. This is really what it is about. We are celebrating what God did for us. We are meant to understand that we, like B’nai Yisrael, were there at the time of Yetsiat Mitsrayim, the Exodus;
that God rescued us along with our ancestors. 

So every year, we go through the preparations of our seders and preparing our homes for Pesach, so that we have cleansed all chamets from our homes.  Chamets comes from the Hebrew verb Ch-m-ts which means to ‘turn sour’.  Thus, each spring, when perhaps our inner selves have turned sour from the long winter, we have an opportunity to clean it all up and begin anew. Thus, all of the frenzy of preparation has simply set the stage for what we now can do spiritually.

So now we are ready to connect with God. Let’s not forget that step of the recipe!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Primarily Primal - Jewish Journal of the North Shore (Boston) - July 25, 2013

I received an e-mail last night from the editor of the Jewish Journal of the North Shore, Susan Jacobs:
"We ran your very moving piece in our paper, out today. Attached is a PDF of the page. Thanks for sharing it with our readers."
And she sent me a .pdf copy of what appeared in the Jewish Journal.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Primarily Primal: ROSH CHODESH SIVAN AT THE KOTEL - A Blessing on My Head - Mazal Tov!

I'm still a novice at blogging so I don't know how to put this in chronological order. This is my account of what transpired at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, (May 10, 2013).

ROSH CHODESH SIVAN AT THE KOTEL - A Blessing on My Head - Mazal Tov!

 Dispatch from the front lines of Women of the Wall

To the Editor:

I would like to add my two cents to what people have and will be talking about today, because I was at the Women of the Wall’s service this morning.

I don’t get to the service very often, as I work during the week and am only free on Fridays. Over the years I have attended a couple of times a year. Even when I still lived in the Boston area and served as a congregational rabbi on the North Shore, I often managed to attend. I remember, before Robinson’s Arch, going with Women of the Wall from the back of the Ezrat Nashim (women’s prayer area) up the stairs (Torah in a duffel bag) to a small archaeological park with an amazing view. And I’ve been to the Robinson’s Arch part of the wall for the Torah service several times.

It sounded like, after the recent court decisions, that women would now be free to don tallit and tefillin in the women’s prayer area itself. The court ruled that this is not illegal.And so, I got up at 4 a.m. this morning and traveled to Jerusalem full of anticipation with two other women from Ra’anana, which is a bit north of Tel Aviv.

The service was marred by the “call to arms” yesterday in a number of communities in Israel for young women students to come to the Kotel prayer area by 6:30 a.m. (Women of the Wall’s service begins at 7 a.m.) and fill up the entire women’s prayer area. Indeed, hundreds — if not more — young people did exactly that. The area where Women of the Wall usually pray together at the back of the women’s prayer area was completely filled with young Orthodox women protesters who didn’t exactly understand what they were doing there and had not only filled up the prayer area but milled around in huge numbers outside of that area as well.

Eventually, Women of the Wall began their service outside the prayer area (immediately behind it) because there was no other space. I give a lot of credit to the shlichot tsibur (prayer leaders) who, in the face of very loud jeering and whistle-blowing and shouting and other shenanigans from the back and sides of the men’s section, led the women in prayer and song. This, despite the obvious attempts to make a mockery of the Rosh Chodesh prayer service.

I saw the daughter of one of the women participants in the service get hit in the head during the davening by a rock that was thrown. At the end of the service, as we were preparing under heavy police guard to leave the area of the Kotel, I was hit in the head by a half-full water bottle lobbed from the jeering crowd. I picked it up after regaining my composure and took a look at the label. It read: “Brachah” (blessing). So indeed, I received a “blessing on my head” this Rosh Chodesh Sivan at the Kotel.

Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky
Ra’anana, Israel

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Tisha b'Av Reminder - The Classic Story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza

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The classic tale of Tisha b’Av hatred – Kamtza and Bar Kamtza
The version below is retold by Rabbi Benjamin Rapaport. I've highlighted a few points... But the main point is: what I and others experienced at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh Av last week is exactly this hatred. 

And what many Jews here in Israel (and outside of Israel, for that matter) have been subjected to by being called "Amalek" by a prominent rabbi from a different group is equally that. Sinaah - שנאה- hatred. And we're doing it again to each other... We Jews just don't learn...

Tisha B’Av: The Greatest Hatred
Understanding the story that sparked the destruction of the Temple.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, on the 9th of Av, the heart of the Jewish people, the Holy Temple, was set on fire. Since then, our history has been filled with scattering and suffering. Like many broken and burnt hearts, it started with a mistake that turned into a fight that escalated to epic proportions. To heal and rebuild, we need to understand what went wrong and what we can do to fix it. It began with a party. Like most parties, there were the invited, the not invited, and the exceptionally unwelcome. Bar Kamtza had the misfortune of both being invited and being exceptionally unwelcome. In family affairs this happens sometimes, but here it was unintentional.

The host of the party had a friend and an enemy, whose names were quite similar, one called Kamtza and the other Bar Kamtza. Since it was a fancy affair, hand-delivered invitations were sent out. Unfortunately, the messenger confused the friend and the enemy, and delivered an invitation to the wrong person, who subsequently came to the party.

It is surprising that Bar Kamtza would go the party of someone whom he knew disliked him. Perhaps he thought that the invitation was a move toward reconciliation and therefore was happy to receive it, showing up to demonstrate his own willingness to put aside the past. In light of this, what happened next is even more tragic.   

Upon seeing his enemy at his home, enjoying the food he had provided, the host, feeling quite incensed, told this invited/unwelcome guest to get out of his house immediately. Rejection, and all the more so such a public rejection, would be very painful to Bar Kamtza. He tried to reason with the host and pleaded, 
“Please don’t throw me out. I will pay you for whatever I eat, but please do not embarrass me.”

The host refused.

“I will pay you for the cost of your entire party, just please do not force me to leave.”

The host refused and threw him out.

It is remarkable that it was worth more to the host to hold on to his hatred than to have his entire party paid for in full. In any case it was a bad move, and things got worse from there. The Sages of the generation were present at this gala affair and did not protest the host’s treatment of Bar Kamtza.

Now, Bar Kamtza, by this time was in a pretty bad mood. When he saw all the Sages sitting there silently, he concluded that the way he was being treated was fine with them. If so, they were also to blame and he would take his revenge on them as well.
Bar Kamtza went to the Roman authorities and told them that the Jews were rebelling against them. They asked for proof. He said to them, “Send a sacrifice to be offered in their Holy Temple and you will see that they will refuse your sacrifice.” The Romans sent an animal with Bar Kamtza to the Holy Temple to check what he was saying.

On the way, Bar Kamtza made a slight blemish to the animal that would render it unfit according to Jewish law. When he got to the Temple some Sages argued that they should offer the sacrifice anyway because not to do so would be endangering their lives. Their opinion was not heeded. Some suggested that they should kill Bar Kamtza so that he should not go back to the Romans and incite them against the Jews. This opinion was also not heeded. In the end, the offering was not brought up, and Bar Kamtza took his revenge by going back to the Romans and slandering the Jews, leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple, the loss of many lives, and our subsequent exile.

If we consider the centrality of this story in the destruction of the Holy Temple, and the level of tragedy that resulted from it, it stands to reason that it is about more than just a dislike between two people. When we take a closer look, we see that it is a story about a lacking in the humanity of the Jewish people as a whole, from the greatest scholars to the common man. There is a question that screams out from beginning to end: Why didn’t anyone do anything? Hatred is seeing others in pain and danger, and not caring enough to get up and do something.

When Bar Kamtza was publicly shamed, why did no one try to help him? When Bar Kamtza later came to take vengeance, threatening the lives of the entire Jewish people, why do we find no dialogue trying to appease him? At the very least, he should have been killed in self-defense as the Talmud teaches that if someone comes to kill you – kill him first! The level of passivity that we find when it came to considering others’ welfare, whether emotionally, as in the case of Bar Kamtza’s shame, or physically in the case of his revenge, is astounding. Where was our humanity?
When the Sages taught that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, this is what they were referring to. Hatred is not just actively doing others harm. It is also about not caring. It is about seeing others in pain, others in danger, and not caring enough to get up and do something. If we think about, treating others like they do not exist is the greatest hatred.

If we wish to rebuild the Holy Temple, we need to begin with our hearts. When we care enough to really see the people that are around us, whether they are our spouses, children, work associates, or neighbors, we are laying the foundation of our sanctuary. Each time we move beyond ourselves and take action to make a positive difference in the life of another, we are adding a golden brick. With time, sensitivity, and positive action, we have the power to heal and rebuild the heart of our nation and build a holiness that will last forever.

Go here to read a good article by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin and see a video of Rosh Chodesh Av at the Kotel. You can really understand the deliberate interference and noise created by the Chareidim to prevent the Women of hte Wall from davening...

Once you hear the maddening hoots and whistles blowing you will ask yourself how one Jew can behave that way to another....

Rosh Chodesh Av – 5773, at the Kotel – My Heart is Broken

Today, Rosh Chodesh Av, I am sad. I am so very sad, disappointed, distressed, heartsick and deeply troubled. Yes, I who am known for my usual cheerful disposition and upbeat nature, am deeply troubled. I was genuinely dumb-struck this morning while at the Kotel with the monthly Women of the Wall prayers. Sorry that the police did not allow us to enter into the women’s section, already cordoned off last Rosh Chodesh (Tammuz) to accommodate the Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh prayers, but sorrier still to discover that the jeering, whistle blowing (yes this time the Chareidi women were blowing whistles with a vengeance, just as the men had done two months ago, driving me and my prayers to distraction (!)) and that the apparent hatred we were greeted with is not as superficial as I had thought (hoped).

I was truly shaken today. Not only by the mockery and hatred I saw plainly on so many Chareidi faces in the face-off between the police barriers, but by the genuine heart-hatred I experienced.

It’s one thing for an angry whistle blower to ‘look’ disdainful or to call me an abomination. It is quite another (in spite of all that) to lean over the barrier and ask at least a dozen or more Chareidi girls and women if they would do me a favor. 

You see, I have a friend who, like Angela Jolie, is having surgery later today in Boston. Like Angela Jolie, she too carries that potentially dangerous gene BCRA 1. She will be operated on today, Rosh Chodesh Av, in a hospital in Boston. Chana bat Nitsah is her name. Please pray for her full recovery – refuah shleimah.

I went to the prayers today with a k’vittel (a small piece of paper with a request for healing for her) to be hopefully placed in a crevice of the Kotel, tucked into my siddur.  But, the police did not allow the Women of the Wall to even enter the women’s prayer section or to get close to the Kotel. So I reached out – I leaned over the police barrier and implored, begged, pleaded with young Chariedi girls and teens and older women (who had completely free access to the Kotel): 
“Please, would you do a mitzvah for me – for my friend – and place this note in the Kotel?”
Again and again I beseeched the Chareidi women. They not only spurned my request, but they cursed me (on Rosh Chodesh Av!!!). They cursed my friend. They said things like:
“It’s your fault”, “She deserves it”, “May she _____ from cancer” [God forbid] and so on.
These were deep and emotionally laden responses. Young women (girls, really) uttering such things is shocking. This is what they have been taught. I didn’t really expect this; I wasn’t prepared for such rancor and scorn. I was shaken to my core. How can we pray as Am Echad (one nation) when we are so divided by hatred?

What I saw and experienced this morning was venomous contempt. Certainly we all know that during the days preceding Tisha b’Av (the 9th of the month of Av) we are meant to be so very careful… We are meant to avoid l’shon ha-ra and all baseless hatred – sina’at chinam. Our tradition teaches that it was because of this that the Beit haMikdash, the Holy Temple was destroyed. And here we were in 2013 - 1st of Av, 5773 – broadcasting such hatred.

On the bus on the way out of the Kotel area, I was struck by a sign I saw:

“We care and will listen to every word of yours” it says.  I wish that we could all “listen” and “hear”.

And that reminded me of a prayer we recite:


Sh’ma koleynu ‘Hear our voices’...; Chus v’rachem aleinu
V’kabel v’rachamim u’ve-ratson et t’filateinu

Have mercy on us and receive our prayers with compassion and willingness.

AMEN! We need it!

Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky
Ra’anana, Israel
July 8, 2013

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Primarily Primal: A Primal Primary Experience

Primarily Primal: Primarily A Warm and Balmy Election Day
A Warm and Balmy Election Day

What a day! Blue skies, sunny, 70+degrees (F) and a mild breeze. I would almost want to dub today balmy… And many families in the town of Ra’a’nana where I live and vote, could be seen leisurely walking together to and from the voting polls and to shopping and cafés. In contrast to the weekly Friday mad dash to get everything done before Shabbat, there was a distinctly relaxed atmosphere today. Most people were in shirtsleeves, some in shorts and t-shirts (especially the joggers). Mid-January and we were having a spring-like day.

What a treat! Especially after the major winter storms of two weeks ago with rivers overflowing highways and snow in Jerusalem and in the Galilee and in the Golan, today gave no hint of what the country experienced two weeks ago — except for the children jumping up and down in the snow outside Ra’a’nana’s large shopping mall complex and throwing snowballs made from the snow trucked down here from the Hermon Mountains in the early morning hours today for their enjoyment.

I walked the 5 blocks or so to my polling place, while stopping to chat with some people I recognized from the neighborhood. No one was rushing (a rare phenomenon in Israel)! No one appeared stressed. Just outside the polling place, in my case, a local elementary school, I saw banners and posters and flyers promoting a range of candidates — not all the candidates — just the most notable parties: Likud-Beiteinu, HaBayit haYehudi (Naftali Bennett’s party), Yair Lapid’s party, Tsipi Livni’s T’nua party, Labor, and maybe one or two others. Young volunteers politely offered pamphlets to those still undecided voters. There was a festive atmosphere.

Inside, there were a few lines depending on what your voter card said. Line 16 looked to be the longest. My line, 93, had two people before me.  It was very relaxed (yes of course there was an armed guard outside the building, but that was not prominent). Standing at the entrance to the room where I would vote, I could see there were about 5 volunteer election ‘officials’ at a long table in a row.  One took your ID card and found you on the pre-printed computerized list, one person recorded your name and ID number, one person held onto your ID until you finished voting. Another handed you the envelope and pointed you in the direction of the cardboard “booth”.

Inside the booth was a rectangular tray with little spaces for each of the party’s ballot slips. called a ‘petek’ in Hebrew, with identifying letters (a one, two or three letter catchword/slogan that had been assigned to each party during the campaign and had appeared for weeks on their literature and advertisements).
Text Box:
Each voter selects his party’s ballot slip. And this little slip of paper, this ‘petek’ is what one puts in the envelope behind the privacy of the cardboard booth. You close and seal the envelope, step out of the ‘booth’, walk past a cardboard ballot box perched on a chair, drop your envelope inside the slot, return to the table, retrieve your ID card and walk out.

That’s it! No forms! No computer crashes! Primitive though it may sound, there was really nothing to ‘break down’ or ‘crash’ or leave one wondering whether his or her vote was actually recorded.

Now, I’m a long time computer junkie myself. I’m proud to say I had one of the first Macs (the ‘box’) back in 1984-85, so I’m no technophobe. BUT, I have to say that compared to my experience during the Likkud primaries a short while ago, there was something so simple and wholesome about today’s voting process.

It was a breeze!

Now I did hear on the radio later about some isolated conflicts here and there in other towns, but I saw no such problems here in Ra’a’nana as I walked around town past other polling places. It looked pretty much the same. Families were out leisurely walking with their children, stopping here and there to shop, taking the kids to the plaza outside Yad l’Banim to play in that (rapidly melting) mound of snow (or driving to the mall). It was all so uncharacteristically relaxed.

What a pleasure!

Ilana Rosansky
January 22, 2013

Primarily Primal: A Primal Primary Experience

Primarily Primal: A Primal Primary Experience: A Primal Primary Experience Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky OMG! Where do I begin? I never cease to be shocked and sur...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Primal Primary Experience

A Primal Primary Experience
Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky

OMG! Where do I begin? I never cease to be shocked and surprised at some of the “ineptness” I experience again and again.  And I never cease to be amazed at my continued naïveté. You’d think that by now I would have become immune to the insanity that abounds. But, oh no! Still shocked and dismayed. Again and again.

Ever the idealist (and adventuresome in spirit), I attended a meeting some months ago hosted by the Shdulah ha Pluralistitהפלורליסטית השדולה, a lobbying group supporting religious pluralism in Israel ( Their intent is to involve more people  — especially (though not exclusively) new/old immigrants who have never gotten involved in the Israeli political system before, and get them to ‘get involved’.

Specifically, their message was to join a party (any party) – any party that has a primary election. Their argument was a well-reasoned one. In the general elections, the voter is one vote among hundreds of thousands (millions?), while in the primary elections one’s vote counts (percentage-wise) much more. And the goal of the shdulah was to vote for candidates who would support religious pluralism (a worthy cause in my book). In today’s Likud primary, there were reported to be approximately 123,001 eligible voters. I was that one!  The idea of registering for a party struck me, last spring, as novel. I had never registered for any party in Israel before.  I did not know anyone who ever had joined an Israeli party either. And the idea was to vote for Knesset candidates who would be open and sensitive to the issue of religious pluralism – among other things.  And I thought it would be interesting to see how the process works.

The other two major parties that have primaries, we were told, were Labor and Kadimah. As it turns out, one would have had to be a member of those parties for 6 or so months before their primaries, in order to be eligible to vote. And they had a primary in the summer and some people who also registered to vote were, unfortunately, not yet eligible to vote in the primaries.

Another point to mention here is that in the general elections I do not have to vote for the party I have registered for. That is, for 40 shekels I could join a party, and try to influence who will be on the ‘ticket’ for the Likud, but in the end, I can vote for Labor or haBayit haYehudi or whatever new party comes along in the next week or so before the deadline — if I so desire. So, it seemed like a pretty good idea, to get involved with the “system”.

But OY!! For weeks now, the primary candidates have been sending me hundreds of SMSs! I began to think there was something wrong with my cell-phone battery the other day, as it was completely depleted before the end of the day. But, although that is still a distinct possibility, I will now have to wait until after these primaries in order to ascertain if I need a new battery or if all these incoming SMS messages are the cause of my depleted battery. Today alone, I have deleted over 25 messages from candidates seeking my vote! Five new messages came in while I have been writing the above paragraphs! Ridiculous! Absurd! One candidate’s message (which came in twice today) doesn’t list his/her ‘number’ on the ballot, but rather says “Fire Dept.” (in English)! What is that all about? Would you be inclined to vote for a candidate that sent an SMS entitled “Fire Dept.”?

But that is just an annoyance and the tip of the iceberg…

So, after work today, I went today to where I could vote in the Likud primaries. I wasn’t precisely sure where the voting place was in Ra’anana, and the radio ads made it clear that this year “everything is computerized so you could vote from any of the nationwide voting places.” Still, I checked on Google Maps for the address of the place, located the strip mall and set out to have a first-hand experience, not knowing what to expect.

On the way, I heard on the radio that the Likud primaries had been experiencing some “technical difficulties”. They were having some computer problems. So I began to wonder what would be. I had heard about long lines, Likud discussions about extending the elections, cancelling these elections and re-running them later in the week and so on. This is not what you expect from the primary elections of Israel’s largest party.

I found the place and had to negotiate a long line of tables of volunteers – young and old – promoting their candidates with stickers, brochures, etc… I made my way into the building and up the stairs to stand in line. It wasn’t moving very fast, to be sure and the people in line were kibbitzing with each other and with a local journalist who wanted to know whom people were voting for. One man verified that he had come earlier in the day and that the computer system was ‘down’ and so he had had to return. He was in pretty good humor for someone who had to stand in line twice today!

There were printed pages, on a table next to the line, that looked like ballots. They had the candidates’ names, numbers and a little box you could put an ‘x’ in. Silly me! I thought these were the ballots and began filling in my 6 or 8 real choices. Now, I thought that if you were allowed to vote for 12 candidates at the national level and one from your local regional area, that if I wanted to have my preferred candidates carry more weight, I should vote for my 6 or 8 real choices.

As it got closer to my turn I could see into the voting room. There were 4 tables set up with three or four people (election volunteers) and behind each table there were two cardboard ‘booths’ with laptop computers in them. As I came to the head of the line I was asked to show my ID card. Then, when I was directed to an available voting station in the room, I had to present my ID card again.

In the line, the young woman in front of me was turned away after presenting her ID card. The official told her he could not find her name on the list. She was nonplussed. He said that perhaps she hadn’t paid her membership dues… I was directed to one of the inside tables. There they checked my ID card and entered me into their computer. And then, I asked what I needed to know in order to vote. “You must vote for 12 candidates, or your vote won’t be tabulated”, I was told. I was dumbfounded. And given they were in good spirits and joking a bit I had to re-ask. “Are you serious? I have to vote for 12?” I was reassured that that was the only way I could vote. They insisted that I had to vote for 12 national candidates and one regional candidate. I was still dumfounded.

So I went onto the computer in my little booth; the program worked with ‘touch’ (like a bank machine). I selected my candidates and a few others I hadn’t really wanted to vote for. The computer wasn’t all that responsive. I couldn’t always get the ‘continue’ button to respond. One of the volunteers came back to where I was to assist me, and she hit the ‘continue’ button and it worked for her. So I selected 12 national candidates, hit the ‘continue’ button to move on to the regional candidate list and nothing happened. The computer went dead. 

So I called out to the good election volunteers at the table in front of my booth and someone came to check. They told me to wait while they tried to verify that at least my national choices had been recorded in the computer. After a while, they said that I could not re-vote but that my national vote had, indeed, been recorded, but now I could not vote for the regional candidate. It was a strange feeling. I don’t know if my vote really was recorded. I have no proof other than their assurance.  Anti-climactic…

Since beginning my account here, I have received another SMS — this time from the Likud party itself. They apparently have decided to extend the election hours until midnight tonight due to the technical difficulties, rather than invalidating the day’s primaries.  I’m of two minds. I don’t want to have to go back and vote again. Indeed, I might not have the time to do so later in the week. On the other hand, as the current Minister of Education, Gidon Saar was quoted on the radio as saying: “these primaries are a farce.”

Four more SMSs...  And I, I never cease to be amazed at my own continued naïveté.  SIGH