Election Day 2013! A nation united in celebration and divided in expectation. A country connected by their right to vote but separated by ideology and practice.

In search of truth, I visited polling booths to hear the voice of the people. I learned that Israelis are easy to talk to and I learned that they don’t get my humor.

In the spirit of truth and fun, but mostly fun…okay, only fun, I have profiled six Israeli voters. Not including the woman who voted for the party “I’m not telling you”  and the guy I found on the steps of Nahlaot café who said he voted for Yair Lapid/Yesh Atid because it rhymed.

Ross – Made Aliyah 20 Years Ago from Crimea, Ukraine
Ross is from Crimea, Ukraine, a place he could not spell (”K-R-I-M I guess?”) Clearly, English is not his first or second language. I found the 32-year-old student mounting his motor-bike outside a voting station in Rechavia. Today, he cast his ballot for the first time.

“I voted for The Zayin Party” Ross told me in his broken English (explaining that the party’s actually called, Eretz Hadasha, a new left-wing party) “because they’re see-through.” What I think he meant is, he is looking for transparency in government. “Like video cameras in the Knesset” he offered.

Ross wasn’t sure if he’d voted for a left wing, right wing or wrong wing party but was sure he voted for truth – אמת – which, oddly are the ballot letters for a party he doesn’t like. “I want socialism but I’m from Russia so I know it doesn’t work.”

Lucky thing for Israel, he got his vote in!

Amitai, Native Israeli
Amitai was manning a Likud-Beyteinu booth flanked with large posters of Netanyahu’s face, so I had no clue who he was voting for but I figured it out eventually. I asked why he didn’t prefer Bennett, you know, wearing Tzitzit and all. “Bennett is also good, any party on the right” he answered with a shy smile.

“Any party on the Right? What about Shas?” I offered, referring to the controversial, Ultra-Orthodox, Sefardic party. “Shas is… it’s okay” he said with a hand motion. “You could definitely vote better.”

I asked him if he’d rather just dance at all parties. “I believe Jews should come together but I can only dance with parties I agree with,” he answered, not understanding my reference to the old Yiddish saying, “You can’t dance at both weddings.”

“If Tzipi Livni was at your wedding, would you let her dance at your party?”

“Yes, of course…but in the ezrat nashim (women’s side) only.”

Naor, Inbar, Emanuel & Benjamin – Young Jerusalemites
This entourage of teenagers was marching down Ben Yehudah with Bayit HaYehudi paraphernalia. It was a dead giveaway. Naor approached to talk about it. “It’s the best party. Its for everyone,” he told me.

“But isn’t it Haredi?” I asked, trying to catch them off-guard. “No, it’s not even religious,” said Inbar, a cheerful girl with an enthusiastic smile. “It’s for Young people, if they want to buy a house or something,” she chirped.

After stocking me up with everything they had to offer, Emanuel showed me one last paper. “See? This woman isn’t even religious!” he said pointing at a flier. When I asked how many people in the party are not, Benjamin announced with pride, “Oh, like two!

One thing these young political activists (around 19) and I agreed on was that marketing the non-religious female candidate was great campaigning. “That’s great campaigning!” “Oh yes!” Emanuel shouted out.

Yossi – Native Jerusalemite
Yossi, fresh off a vote for “Gimel,” ran off when his cell phone rang before we could collect his photo. He assured me his vote was based on belief in a Torah-based Israel and not on their super good looks.

Yossi had a hard time discussing the difference in parties, but when I prodded further he concluded, “I would say Gimel (United Torah Judaism) is right-wing. The others are probably wrong wing.”

I’m pretty sure his favorite party is really a Hassidic Grand Rabbi’s Tish, though.

Ronit, English Speaking Israeli
Ronit, super cool and fun-loving, was sprawled out on a bench on Bezalel reading an e-book. She voted for Meretz citing their platform as the best for Israel to address the conflict and move forward. “I believe in human rights” she said.

I offered her the opportunity to create a “one-party system” but she didn’t think it would work. Hmm, I don’t see what her issue is. But I digress.

“Ronit, do you think the inconsistent Jerusalem weather, with snow one day and 27C (81F) a week later, is the worst problem facing our nation?”

“No, I think the conflict is worse. But I think the sudden changes in climate can help people be more open to change!”

You know, she might be talking sense!

Unnamed Voter – JFB (Jerusalemite From Birth)
“I am voting for Otzma” he began yelling at me, standing next to his yellow flag draped Teffilin Booth. “Yes, Otzma L’Yisrael. That’s who!”

Assuming he was pretty religious, I tried to reason with him: “They are not the most Haredi party! They don’t have big hats and long beards with payos…”

“Yes you are right, but they ARE the most Haredi party.” I’ll tell ya, it’s surreal to be right and wrong at the same time!

So whether its right wing, left wing, wrong wing or a different wing, one thing is certain: Israelis are fun-loving, opinionated people.

The pride of those who voted was refreshing to see. Everyone came together to practice a civil right, and to some, a civic duty.

While divided in ideology and practice, they peacefully voted for the people they feel can best lead the country. Whoever comes out victorious in this carousel of Israeli politics will have quite the task ahead of her/him. May G-d grant them blessing and success.

(Photos courtesy and © of Levi Tenenbaum. levi@levitenenbaum.com)

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