Illustration for Aliyah Chronicle by Shmuel Katz


I often write about events or occasions that need updates but don’t really fill an entire column. So, this week, I decided to write several short updates on topics we may have covered in the past couple of months. They’ll all require additional updates, but we’ll tackle those as they come along.

First off, the Shalva Band has made it all the way to the finals of the Israeli talent show Rising Star, one of only four competitors to reach this level. It is an emotional story, and watching them compete is amazing! They are very good. There is no doubt that despite all our protestations to the contrary, they are definitely getting a sympathy vote. But they are so good that even without the sympathy votes, they’d still merit their spot.

The only hitch will come if they win. Israeli pop star Omer Adam (who is not observant himself but will not perform on Shabbat) declined to participate in Eurovision, because the performances happen on Friday night and motzaei Shabbat. By rule, all contestants must perform in both sessions to qualify. The Shalva Band has several members who are shomrei Shabbat, and the band has already announced that they will not perform on Shabbat. An appeal was made to Eurovision to allow for them either to perform before Shabbat on Friday or to present a taped performance for Friday night. Earlier this week, that appeal was rejected.

I am not in any way claiming that it was discriminatory. Eurovision has clearly stated these guidelines for all applicants to know in advance, and they have every right to enforce their rules, which are designed to promote Eurovision. They get a prime TV audience internationally and they need to market their product for their benefit. It is still disappointing, however, to see that they could not find a way to capitalize on this opportunity to show how supportive they are of inclusion.

We’ll have to wait for further developments.

Moving on to water …  As you all know, I am a bit of a fanatic about the rain and the water-supply levels here. We’ve been on a 5-year drought, with water levels declining from year to year. The last time this happened in Israel, a major crisis was declared with all sorts of conservation efforts. This time, the use of desalinated water has lessened the crisis mode, but we came into the winter in a severe state.

The Kineret (which used to serve as over 40% of our water source but has gone down to about 20%) was almost to the point at which it would be ecologically disastrous for us to draw water from it. Streams and ponds that would normally carry away all sorts of materials and refresh the ecology of the riverbeds have had no water for several years. Agriculturally, we survive, but there is no question that rainwater is much more beneficial for the country as a whole than other sources.

Thankfully, we had a very nice November and December (months in which we historically do not see much rain accumulation). The rains have slowed somewhat lately, but we still have a few prime months left for rainfall. We are currently only 17 cm or so from last year’s high and with expected runoff from snowmelt in the northern mountains, we are almost certainly going to see a net gain from rainfall this year.

This is tremendous news for us here, yet we really need so much more. We need to get back to “safe” levels in our water supply and to have enough rainfall to ensure that we don’t drop down even to current levels over the dry season. We probably won’t get there this year. But every drop helps. So please keep us in mind when you pray for more rain, rain, rain!

Finally, let’s talk a little about everyone’s favorite topic—elections. I’m sure you’ve seen all the different polls showing the ways that Bibi Netanyahu is either sure to win, sure to suffer a crushing defeat, or sure to be in a race too close to call. Polls here come out every couple of days and they ask incredibly vague questions at this point, so it is hard to expect them to be accurate.

“Vague” you ask? Well, at this point, almost none of the parties have come to any merger agreements. Every party needs at least 3.5% of the total vote to qualify for the Knesset. Some of the outliers, who are dangerously close to not qualifying, will join forces with parties with whom they can identify. They negotiate who gets listed at what ranking on the merged party’s list and hope that by joining forces, they will together be elected to the Knesset and have each party represented.

Additionally, some of the major parties look to merge to further solidify their power base. A merged party holding 27 seats is much more powerful than two individual parties holding 12 and 15 seats, respectively. They have more bargaining power in coalition negotiations and can even present a viable choice to lead the government.

Until these mergers happen, a lot of the polls ask multiple questions about preferences. Who would you support if X and Y parties merged? What about if X and Z? Who would you vote for if they all stayed independent? With all these confusing and conflicting possibilities, it is very hard for the voters to conceptualize their preferences, much less disclose them.

Furthermore, with an abundance of political neophytes and new parties in the mix this time, voters have not yet been fully exposed to their messages and may be initially attracted to or repulsed by them. As the election cycle continues its course and messages and identities get clarified, there are likely to be continued shifts in voters’ preferences.

So it is much too early to be overly concerned or excited about polling data.

Shmuel Katz, his wife, Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July 2006. Before making aliyah, Shmuel was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at


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