People of the Pod'You never actually get across the finish line!'

LISTEN: NYT Jerusalem chief vents about the bumpy road to new Israeli government

Episode #30: A month after the Israeli elections, there’s still no coalition. David Halbfinger explains why * Jewish thinkers’ thoughts on this special Passover

After three elections in the space of a year, Israel now appears to be on the verge of having a functioning government again — maybe. Joining the People of the Pod to discuss the latest developments is The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger.

People of the Pod is a co-production of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and The Times of Israel.

As co-host Seffi Kogen notes, for Jerusalem-based Halbfinger, part of his job is “translating” Israeli politics for Americans. The journalist said that for him, part of the foreign aspect of Israeli politics is “the feeling that nothing is ever done, or finished, or resolved,” he said. He compared the system in Israel to “multi-variable Calculus” versus the United State’s simpler math with a two-party system.

“You never actually get across the finish line! That’s what it feels like in forming a government here,” he laughs, calling it “exhausting.”

Halbfinger outlines many of the sticking points in forming the new government, including the appointment of the justice minister, who ultimately would influence Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s many indictments and upcoming trials.

Regarding Blue and White head Benny Gantz, who is still hammering out details in a deal to join the Netanyahu government despite campaign promises to the contrary, Halbfinger says, “it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he’s managed to keep Netanyahu in.” He quickly notes that the novel coronavirus crisis has changed all previous parameters.

Next, co-host Manya Brachear Pashman asks several Jewish thinkers why this Passover is different from all other Passovers.

Rabbi Noam Marans says “difficult situations create different meaning.” No one wants the coronavirus crisis, but in its wake, he says, “We’re more thoughtful in every single detail.” The mundane — shopping and cleaning — becomes more complicated, and a source of contemplation.

AJC Associate Director of Contemporary Jewish Life Laura Shaw Frank speaks to the interconnectedness of her Jewish community, the first that identified infected individuals. The fact that its infecting our communities in such a powerful way speaks to the success of intertwined Jewish life, she says. A Jewish historian, she gives the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah as an example of Jewish resilience.

Then we hear from Tablet Senior Writer Yair Rosenberg on how to make Passover especially meaningful this year, even if the seder is not the perfect version that you have in mind. He recommends checking out the Tablet website for some new Passover songs, as well as Jack Black’s version of “Had Gadya” — “because it exists,” he laughs.

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Also this week, two other Times of Israel podcasts:

On The Times of Israel Podcast this week, we’ll discover how hi-tech can allow religiously observant Jews to stay connected to their prayer communities, and how it can also help those at highest risk during the coronavirus crisis — the elderly.

And in a special episode of the “WhyWhyWhy!” podcast, we bring you one short story, “Alone together with Fiona,” told by Abi Hartuv. It’s a tale of neighbors nurturing ties even while confined to their homes, in other words, a story borne of the extraordinary circumstances in which we all find ourselves at the moment.

The Times of Israel podcast is available for download on iTunesSoundcloudTuneIn, Pocket CastsStitcher, PlayerFM, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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