Something to chew on (besides dried carob)

I've started writing somewhat regularly for the New York Jewish Week.
This week, I look at the custom of eating dried fruit on Tu Bi-Shvat and think about ways to "freshen" the custom to reflect the contemporary reality in Israel and abroad.

My first column, on rabbinic attitudes toward weapons, appeared a few weeks ago.


A Note on Voting for "Threshold Parties"

Today's the day. I suppose most of my thoughts leading up to the election ended up on Facebook, not this blog. Alas, broken promises. Good thing I'm not running for office.

I suppose if someone is interested but is not "friends" with me on FB, they can subscribe to my public profile, as some 40 people have done. You'll be able to read and comment on the threads, some of which have been a lot of fun.
One final note that I think is of great importance, especially since popular blogs like Jameel's have taken the exact opposite line: a vote for a party that might not cross the electoral threshold is not a "wasted" vote, and is in fact the opposite - your vote may be worth even more than the average vote. 
If the party you most identify with is so small that it has no chance of passing the electoral threshold, it might be wise to vote for a party that doesn't fit as well but that will almost certainly be represented. However, if you most identify with a party that is polling close to the threshold - at the 1.5-2.5% range, your vote is in fact worth double. 
Chances are always pretty slim that your vote is the one that pushes your party's representation from X to X+1 Knesset Members. But in the case of the small party, your vote has the chance of pushing the party from 0 to 2 MKs. 
The entire equation - figuring out what your vote might mean for how the excess votes are distributed at the end, how it impacts other parties, etc. - is pretty complicated, but the basic calculation, especially figuring that a particular party is already in a border area between representation and non-representation, obviously mitigates in favor of voting for the small party.
So if you most closely identify with Kadima, Am Shalem, Aleh Yarok, Eretz Chadasha (borderline - polling at 1.4%), or Otzma Le-Yisrael (I have not seen numbers for Da'am), then that is you should vote for. Doing so is no more a potential "waste" of a vote than voting for any other party, where your vote has just as slim a chance, if not a slimmer chance, of bolstering Knesset representation of that party. 
Two side notes: 
1) I am not endorsing those parties in particular (if it were even possible to endorse all of them without suffering from multiple personality disorder). I am merely pointing out that you should not consider a vote for such a "waste". 
2) I am not taking a side on whether it is BETTER to have a multiplicity of small parties than a few larger parties. The bias of voters from English-speaking countries (and apparently Russians as well) is toward the latter, but over time, as I have come to understand Israel more intimately, I have come to embrace the multiplicity.  See this article about Einat Wilf's new book, which makes that very argument.