Ultra-Orthodox Jews in long black coats stood in line next to soldiers in uniform and nose-ringed millennials, all participating in the saga that is an election in Israel. Yesterday was a national holiday in the country. Nearly six million people were eligible to vote. Election turnout was strong.
Israeli elections are very confusing to most outsiders. Citizens vote for a single list of candidates offered by a party (or coalition of parties). There were 34 such party lists on yesterday’s ballot. A party list gains seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in proportion to the number of votes it receives. The ruling party must control at least 61 seats, a majority no party in Israeli history has ever won in a general election.
Leaders of the parties which won seats in the Knesset then recommend a person to be prime minister. The president of Israel (a non-elected, largely ceremonial post) weighs these recommendations and selects the person he deems most likely to forge a 61-seat governing coalition. That individual then has 42 days (28 days plus a 14-day extension) to create a 61-seat coalition. If he/she fails, the president selects another person to attempt the same. Once a coalition is built, it is affirmed by the Knesset and the prime minister begins to govern.
In a dramatic surprise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won the election over Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union party. Mr. Netanyahu is now working to form a ruling coalition, though the president is said to support a unity government which would include the two parties.
Controversy and challenges are nothing new for Israel. The existence of the nation is itself a miracle. Forged from land it was forced to abdicate 20 centuries ago, the Jewish state is the strongest democracy in the Middle East. Its elections, as chaotic as they appear to outsiders, are actually evidence of the people’s flourishing commitment to their country. For so many Israelis to run for office, form parties, and participate in democracy is cause for great hope. And the fact that this tiny nation continues to thrive while surrounded by enemies is evidence of her transcendent significance.
I have been leading study tours to Israel for 20 years. We go not as tourists but as pilgrims, walking in the footsteps of the patriarchs of our faith. We trace the lives and ministries of Peter and the apostles. Most of all, we meet Jesus in the land of his birth.
God has his hand on the nation of Israel. However, her hope is not in the blessing of God, but in the God who blesses. (Tweet this) May the children of Abraham turn to the son of Abraham, the Lord Jesus (Matthew 1:1), and find in him their peace. And may all who love our Lord pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai said, “Israel is a port city on the shore of eternity.” (Tweet this) He was right.