Sur­prise me, Moshe Lion

I want to be­lieve that just be­cause Moshe Lion has the back­ing of some of the more crooked politi­cians in the Knes­set, it doesn’t mean he will obey their ev­ery word once he’s in­stalled as Jerusalem mayor

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIONS - BRIAN BLUM The writer’s book, To­taled: The Bil­lion-Dol­lar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, is avail­able on Ama­zon and other on­line book­sell­ers. bri­an­

Ilove vot­ing. Even if the can­di­dates I sup­port tend to be un­der­dogs who wind up in the op­po­si­tion, I’m pos­i­tively giddy walk­ing into my lo­cal bal­lot­ing sta­tion, plac­ing the col­ored slip into the vot­ing en­ve­lope and drop­ping it in the flimsy card­board box (that hope­fully will be re­placed some­day by iPads and the cloud).

The flip side of my plebisc­i­tal joy is the de­pres­sion that de­scends when my guy or gal in­evitably loses. That’s how I woke up last Wed­nes­day morn­ing to the news that Moshe Lion had beaten Ofer Berkovitch in Jerusalem’s runoff race for mayor.

The stakes were high: Lion was por­trayed across my so­cial me­dia echo cham­ber as the devil in­car­nate (an ironic ap­pel­la­tion, given that’s what Lion backer In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arye Deri name-called his op­po­nent). When it was clear Lion would be­come mayor, my on­line friends were de­spon­dent.

All the plu­ral­is­tic gains of the Barkat years will be lost, they wailed. The First Sta­tion will be shut down on Shab­bat. The Pride Pa­rade, too. Lion will only work for the thin ma­jor­ity that voted for him. Some even won­dered if it was fi­nally time to con­sider mov­ing to Tel Aviv.

Some in the Berkovitch camp chas­tised the non-ul­tra-Or­tho­dox pub­lic for its ap­par­ent ap­a­thy. That’s not what I saw in my ad­mit­tedly small fa­mil­ial sam­ple – ev­ery­one in the Blum house­hold voted, in­clud­ing our soldier son who spends his days in Tel Aviv and our daugh­ter and son-in-law who dodged mis­siles to drive home from Ha­mas-tar­geted Sderot in time to cast their bal­lots. But the 31% city­wide turnout was cer­tainly not as high as it could have been.

Even be­fore the votes were tal­lied, I was not en­tirely com­fort­able with all the alarmism. Will it re­ally be so aw­ful with Lion? I found my­self ask­ing any­one who would lis­ten. Was it pos­si­ble that the doom­say­ers were mostly play­ing pol­i­tics, em­pha­siz­ing the worst to bring out the vote?

I des­per­ately want to see the good in Jerusalem’s new mayor. I want to be­lieve that he will de­liver on his cam­paign slo­gan of be­ing a mayor for all the city’s res­i­dents. That his years of man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors will al­low him to ef­fec­tively head Is­rael’s largest city with its NIS 9 bil­lion an­nual bud­get. That he will know how to work with the na­tional govern­ment to avoid the kind of fi­nan­cial show­downs that have plagued Jerusalem in the past.

Most of all, I want to be­lieve that, just be­cause Lion has the back­ing of some of the more crooked politi­cians in the Knes­set, it doesn’t mean he will obey their ev­ery word once he’s in­stalled as mayor; that he can still be an in­de­pen­dent thinker with the best in­ter­ests of the city’s cit­i­zens at heart. I want to give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt.

That won’t be so sim­ple.

Our brains are wired for sus­pi­cion. Psy­chol­o­gists have a name for it: the “neg­a­tiv­ity bias.” The part of our brain that gov­erns this neg­a­tiv­ity, the amyg­dala, “uses about two-thirds of its neu­rons to look for bad news,” ex­plains Rick Han­son, founder of the Well­spring In­sti­tute for Neu­ro­science and Con­tem­pla­tive Wis­dom.

We were built this way over mil­lions of years of evo­lu­tion.

“Our an­ces­tors had to make a crit­i­cal de­ci­sion many times a day: ap­proach a re­ward or avoid a hazard,” Han­son says. Or in more col­or­ful lan­guage: “Pur­sue a car­rot or duck a stick.”

If you miss out on a car­rot to­day, Han­son con­tin­ues, “you’ll have a chance at more car­rots to­mor­row. But if you fail to avoid a stick to­day – WHAP! – no more car­rots for­ever.”

That’s why an­i­mals in the wild in­ter­pret any rus­tle in the woods as a po­ten­tial preda­tor. Fail­ure to take into ac­count the worst-case sce­nario too of­ten re­sults in a tiger’s tasty lunch – at your ex­pense.

Try­ing to see the best in some­one, es­pe­cially some­one in pub­lic of­fice, takes work. We have to fight our nat­u­ral neg­a­tive in­cli­na­tions. The cur­rent leg­isla­tive cli­mate – both in Is­rael and the US – where politi­cians have en­thu­si­as­ti­cally been con­firm­ing many of our great­est fears, doesn’t make that any eas­ier.

Yet, I feel cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about Lion. Have I some­how mag­i­cally tran­scended hu­man­ity’s de­fault neg­a­tiv­ity bias?


But wal­low­ing apoplec­tic isn’t good for any­one. That’s a les­son I’ve in­ter­nal­ized over this past year as I’ve had to cope with chronic can­cer; a teach­able mo­ment that orig­i­nated far from pol­i­tics. (I only wish I didn’t have to get sick to learn it.)

There’s an­other rea­son to re­main pos­i­tive. Democ­racy in Is­rael still works. Yes, there were al­leged im­pro­pri­eties in the months lead­ing up to elec­tion day, far too many “fake news” texts and the awk­ward bed­fel­lows that al­ways ac­com­pany politi­cians (es­pe­cially those who win). But no one “stole” the elec­tion. To the best of our knowl­edge, Rus­sians didn’t hack the Jerusalem mayor’s race.

Berkovitch ran a strong cam­paign that was well-ex­e­cuted and gen­er­ally clean. That led to his Hi­tore­rut party win­ning an un­prece­dented seven seats – the largest on the new city coun­cil.

More­over, Berkovitch isn’t go­ing any­where. He’ll get an­other shot at the top slot – and if Lion does take the city to a dark place, that will pro­vide all the more im­pe­tus to vote the in­cum­bent out of of­fice in 2023.

I hope that’s not the case. I’m ac­tu­ally root­ing for Lion to be the “mayor of ev­ery­one.” So sur­prise me – sur­prise us all – Moshe Lion, and up­end the hu­man propen­sity for neg­a­tiv­ity.

We’ll talk again in five years.

(Marc Is­rael Sellem)

‘I DES­PER­ATELY want to see the good in Jerusalem’s new mayor [Moshe Lion, shown here af­ter his win in the sec­ond round on Novem­ber 13]... [and that] he will de­liver on his cam­paign slo­gan of be­ing a mayor for all res­i­dents.’

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