Voices from the field

Voting Absentee as a Shlicha

By Tal Shaked

Several weeks before the election, I woke up feeling unusually festive, and drove to the Israeli Consulate in downtown Chicago to exercise my right to vote for the next Knesset of the State of Israel.

I have never missed a vote in Israel. Even when I went on my big "post-army" trip to India and an early vote for a new government was called, I shortened my trip to return to Israel so I could vote. I have always felt it was a great responsibility and obligation.

This election, for the first time in my life, I voted for the Knesset from outside of Israel. I was gripped by a sense of excitement and responsibility even deeper than usual. It was a surprising feeling I wasn't prepared for, and it has taken time to digest and understand why this time felt so different.

At first, I thought it might have been the distance which magnified the responsibility, making me feel a sense of necessity, or even urgency. I am not currently living in Israel, yet there I was, on the day of elections at the Israeli Consulate in a sort of Israeli territory, feeling like I was actually in Israel.

The deeper I thought about my feelings, the more I realized they stemmed from a deep understanding and identification with the North American Jewish community. 

For thousands of years, what happened in one Jewish community did not necessarily affect the identities of other Jewish communities around the world. But after the establishment of the Jewish State, that paradigm changed.

In the past, when I voted in Israel, I felt that my vote would influence the future of the State of Israel. During this election, however, after living in America for one and a half years as a shlichah, I understand that my vote matters not only in Israel, but that it also has a critical impact on the identity and life of the Jewish people here. It was this understanding that explained my greater sense of duty.

The post I put on Facebook with the picture of me voting at the Israeli Consulate got more "likes" than any I had posted before; way more "likes" than articles, pictures of trips, or even pictures of my children had received.

The reaction people had to my Facebook post showed me how much pride the North American Jewish community has for the future of Israel and the Jewish people. My vote is, in many ways, all of our votes. It elicited a feeling too big to begin to put into words.