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Fruit and the Make-Up of the Knesset

Could there really be a connection between how much fruit is consumed in Israel today and the composition of the next Knesset?

Today is the festival of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish arbor day of sorts. And when it was originally mooted that the election could come the day after Tu B’Shevat, the ultra-Orthodox parties were reportedly up in arms. Why? Even the finest analysts were left scratching their heads, and the parties gave no clues.

Could it be there was a concern people would be too busy to vote, having just taken a day off for Tu B’Shevat? No, it’s a minor festival and even the most observant do not take the day off. Would people be tired from the strenuous religious obligations of the festival? There are none – just fun traditions.

One possible explanation for the ultra-Orthodox party’s reticence about the election date is the festival’s er, after-effects. People celebrate Tu B’Shevat by feasting on fruit, and there is a positive correlation between religiosity and observance of this custom.

… Another mystery of this election is whether politicians actually take any notice of what is on the minds of members of the public.

Israel is only going to the polls because Ehud Olmert’s government crumbled amid accusations levied against him of misdeeds supposedly motivated by personal greed. It is difficult to forget that Morris Talansky told investigators that he did not know how Olmert spent the money he allegedly received, but “I only know he loved expensive cigars. I know he loved pens, watches.”

On the heels of this and several other corruption cases, confidence in politicians to promote public interests and not personal ones is at an all time low. Throw in to the mix the fact that the Bank of Israel has just revised its forecast for 2009 and is now predicting that the economy will slow down, and it seems odd timing for the cabinet to approve a $160 million budget for an elaborate new Prime Minister’s residence.

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