You might not think high school students in New York City would be that invested in the Israeli elections. But when one of the potential prime ministers is an alumnus of your Jewish day school, you pay attention.
This afternoon, hours before the election results were in, I headed uptown to Manhattan’s Ramaz School, the Modern Orthodox yeshiva that Isaac “Buji” Herzog attended in the late 1970s when his father, Chaim Herzog, served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. I wanted to see what students there were saying about the election, and the Zionist Union leader who attended their school.
Yona K., a senior at Ramaz, said he wanted to see Herzog win the election, but added that “whoever wins we need to support.” (Ramaz has a strict policy about reporters identifying students by last initial only).
“I’m personally interested in politics and you can see what Buji has done and it makes you think you can do that too and be someone important,” Yona explained. “This has been a unique opportunity to see how Ramaz is big in the world and how prestigious we actually are.”
Paul Shaviv, Ramaz’s head of school, said Herzog has always had a soft spot for the school and has spoken widely about his time there. “Student leadership is what started him in his political life and he has always been very upfront about the value of his experience here both in his professional and political career, so we are very proud of him,” he said.
“I thought that the fact that the Arabs combined into one party was very unique to this election because it has never been done before and it was a game changer,” said senior Eddy M. While he personally thought Bibi was the better candidate, he acknowledged it was hard to have a strong opinion since he’s not an Israeli who must send his children to the army or deal with the high cost of living.
“With this election particularly, it was difficult to say who I would vote for because the main focus was the economy, and I live in the U.S., where it doesn’t affect me.” He said that his experience at the recent AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. made him realize that there is a disconnect between the American Jewish perspective of the election and the Israeli perspective.
“At AIPAC, the main focus was Iran, Iran, Iran, but when I was in Israel a few weeks earlier, all the Israelis I met spoke about the economy, not one state or two states,” Eddy explained.
Ben, a junior at Ramaz, said he thought Herzog’s candidacy spoke volumes about the values the school instills in its students, adding that it was “really cool to see how far he has come.” Ben explained that he learned a lot about Israeli politics from his Hebrew class, where students focus on current events and cultural affairs. “I think that as an American Jew, even though I’m not living there, it’s important that we follow what’s going on in Israel and support it,” he said.