...And now Israel has gained him as president. The man who has visited Jabotinsky's grave on Mount Herzl and the ancient synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem more than once will proudly carry the tidings of Jerusalem and his Jewish commitment to it. We will all benefit.
11 June '14..
Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin will be a centrist president, just like in Yehuda Amichai's poem about Jerusalem, his great love, that he has quoted more than once: "Why is Jerusalem always two, of above and of below / and I want to live in Jerusalem of in between / without hitting my head above without injuring my foot below."
He knows now to give audiences a feeling of belonging, which Shimon Peres, who is widely esteemed internationally, was as far from being able to do as New York is from Paris or Jerusalem is from Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood. Rivlin will speak to the citizens of Israel in "Jewish," and, like Menachem Begin, will pepper his speeches with biblical references and Jewish references and will take care not to desecrate the Sabbath publicly.
The president-elect wouldn't dare to celebrate birthdays with the same ostentation that marked Peres' 90th birthday party, because he just isn't like that. Rivlin is one of the people, and even if he has been "lifted," he'll remember where he came from. He might even continue living in his own apartment and commute to work at the President's Residence every day.
As president, Rivlin (full disclosure, we are friends) will not torpedo military operations in Iran. He will remain loyal to his legacy and his ideology; visit settlements and feel their pain and rejoice in their growth. In his heart, he will continue to mourn for Gush Katif, which is no longer, but he'll also know -- and recently said -- that "the obligation of the elected government to govern requires the president to give appropriate support to all its decisions, even when they don't match his personal position." Will his opinions pop up from time to time during his presidency? It's entirely possible, but there is nothing wrong with that. Peres and Weizman from the Left aren't the only ones who are allowed to do this.
The president-elect will test his ability to make sectors of the population who thus far have felt rejected and discriminated against feel like they belong. He will try to bridge between "the state of Tel Aviv" and "the state of Jerusalem," between Israeliness and Judaism; to speak for the poor, the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs, and the settlers; to connect people and reduce polarization. Another "Jerusalem" president, Yitzhak Navon, tried to conduct himself this way and is remembered for it to this day.
Rivlin won't solve disputes, but will do everything so that we can live with them, and agree to disagree. When he is there, the President's Residence will be much more down to earth than under Peres, and with a whiff of spirituality. As a descendent of the European Rivlins who immigrated to Israel in the 19th century, and as the son of Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin -- a prominent researcher in Middle Eastern studies and linguistics -- and Rachel Rivlin, who served on the Jerusalem city council as a member of the Herut party, Rivlin took in the ability to go both deeper than and above the here and now. He taught his children and grandchildren that the Jews had their own Exodus in their own country -- the end of the British Mandate and the birth of the state -- and gave them the sense that the state can never be taken for granted. He'll do the same now.
Years ago, Jerusalem lost out on having him as mayor (Ehud Olmert took care to push him out in an internal struggle in the local Herut branch.) And now Israel has gained him as president. The man who has visited Jabotinsky's grave on Mount Herzl and the ancient synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem more than once will proudly carry the tidings of Jerusalem and his Jewish commitment to it. We will all benefit. Long live the president.
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