Saturday, February 16, 2013

My First Political Volunteering - Interim Summary

Why did I start? A combination of being inspired by a new leader whose agenda makes a lot of sense to me, and curiosity to learn how politics work from the bottom up.

My first activity was distributing "equal service for all" flyers on the hot August asphalt of Holon junction to drivers stopping at the red light, with a huge sign strapped to my back. I distributed different party materials all over Holon, (my walking mileage comparable to a mailman's), made phone calls looking for other volunteers, participated in meetings and carried out laptop-based tasks. The most fun activity by far, was the one on the Friday after the elections. We distributed candy in the local mall to thank the voters, an act that took the crowds by surprise. Israeli voters are used to being ignored right after the elections. To the best of my knowledge, no other party did anything like that.

Very early in the process I realized that my expectation to learn how politics work at the lowest level was quite stupid, as this new party consists of excellent people with an impressive track record, but without any political background, as part of their "new politics" agenda. Everybody learns on the job.

One thing I learned while distributing the party's "small business assistance program" flyer is that Holon residents are very particular about their hair styling, otherwise there is no explanation for the existence of  the 765,923 hair salons I visited during this activity.

What I really learned though, was more about myself, about the way I interact with people who don't populate the little bubble of hi-tech employees and friends I live in. I learned that it's relatively easy for me to connect to people (smiling and being polite helps a lot). However, handing a flyer or convincing someone on the phone to volunteer proved easier for me than interacting with the weird bunch of volunteers in our branch: a sincere, autodidact retail manager, an annoyingly bragging retired bus driver, a former old-school business professor, a vociferous woman wearing excessive quantities of make-up, a mysterious lawyer and his friend, a militarist party official who looks through but never at me, to mention just a few.

Transitioning from the elections-focused, high-tension activity to building a lasting infrastructure is a challenging period for the party. I want to stay on as I believe the new MKs are committed to better our lives. When inquiring about continued volunteering, I was told the part definitely needs people like me, but they haven't yet figured out what for.