Jerusalem, my hometown: Election Day

So, I walked down Rabbi Akiva street this morning, shortly after 07:00. I couldn’t wait to vote in my first Israeli election. As I turned the corner into the Experimental School, that institution of “childish” learning that’s so nefesh yafeh (literally: beautiful soul but in colloquial Hebrew, the expression connotes a somewhat politically correct attitude with an extra dose of Israeli-styled posturing, exhibited-to-demonstrate one’s enlightenment. Think Portlandia, I’ve been told). Is this really true? Somebody “enlighten” me. I think I may have gotten a biased report by an oversensitive conservative who used to live in Taos, New Mexico.

But, such a left to right-minded introduction to our Election Day is all the more apropos. I mean, look at what I’m talking about without even trying: politics and education. You see, in Israel, we can never even get to 08:00 without running smack into at least a little controversy.

And so it was with me. I walked into the right place. Except, it was the wrong place. I wasn’t on the list. I told them that I plugged in my national ID on that website I told you about in my last post and up came Rabbi Akiva street, number eleven. “Ohhh” he said, “This is number seven; you have to walk around outside and you’ll see where to go.”

Yeah, right.

Well, after wandering around the playground area, I espied a small door, no signs to let me know this is where to vote, no number eleven to be seen anywhere either.

This is soooo Israeli. I mean, I couldn’t make this stuff up it’s so good! I’m having such a blast right now trying to write this all down, as clearly as I can with all these stereotypical Israeli frustrations. And, this happened just inside of my first hour awake! My fingers can’t type fast enough! Wait for us, they’re yelling at my brain…too much good stuff, don’t leave anything out!

Okay, the story gets better…

I go up to this next guy. He looks on his sheet. Sure enough, there’s my name. He says, “sorry, you’ll have to come back.”


“Yes, they are having technical difficulties in your room.”

“I don’t have a room.”

“Yes, you do, it’s number 83.”


“Yes, if your room was 81 or 85, no problem, but 83 is a problem.”

“Okay.” Apparently, in Israel, voting at one polling place really does mean one exact place. “I can’t vote in room 81 or 85?”

“No, they will fix the technical problem. So come back.”

“Can I sit on the bench over here and read the paper?”

“Sure, what do I care?”

Another guy walks by with a cup of coffee, not for me. “Sure, sure, sit, sit. The problem will get fixed.”

“Any guess how long?” I had bought the Jerusalem Post just before I came and I really couldn’t care how long this took today. I’m having one of those very primary and important experiences for new olim. Today, I’m voting and treating the rest of the day like the extra Shabbat that it is (we have these for a variety of reasons, as I’m learning and liking)…

…the daytime today that is, not tonight as you soon will understand why…but I digress:

“No idea.” He says as he sips on his coffee.

So I sat and started to read a very interesting article and stared at Bibi’s face in a paid ad right there on page one. But, get this…the headline says that maybe Likud Beytenu could drop below 30 seats! Who would have thought?

Oh, oh, oh…and, I really loved Herb Keinon’s piece on kombinot, the art of “coalition-imagining” or what Israelis naturally do as they contemplate who to vote for…Israelis actually do think on whether or not to strengthen or weaken a prospective coalition as they think it is likely to materialize. I got over-jazzed (is that an expression?) by this article because I am naturally falling right into this tendency without even trying which is all a new oleh like me needs to authenticate his Israeli experience. I guess it’s working! Yes people, I can feel my feet sinking down into the soil of Israeli life.

Help, I’m being absorbed!

You should have read the full-of-myself-crap (that I still think holds merit) that I wrote to my father in an email last night flexing my best kombinot skills (like a newborn colt walking for the first time, I fear) and giving him my awfully (was it awful, Dad?) adroit analysis imaging how best to achieve what I thought needed to be achieved in this election within the realm of the possible including the dangers of my idea “backfiring” which for sure, it could!

Well, it was only about fifteen minutes and for the life of me, I couldn’t see what the technical problem could have been. I mean in Israel, there aren’t voting machines, just a tray filled with papers with big fat black acronyms for each of the parties like this:

So, I took my official envelope and went behind the voting screen and picked one piece of paper out of the tray (I’ll never tell which one) and sealed it in the envelope and dropped into the vote box. Simple process, really. Wait a minute, can this be? This is Israel!

It took me about two minutes of showing my ID and then voting and then I was done.

After that, I inaugurated my new Election Day tradition. I went and bought myself a premium ice cream bar and this I ate before 08:00 whether or not this is politically correct! I intend to do this for every new Knesset.

Well, everyone says we know that Bibi will win. How do we know? Oh, the perfect polls, I forgot. Suppose they are wrong for a moment. Suppose it’s actually possible that he could lose.

You don’t have to pretend. You could actually go out and vote, if you haven’t already. For example, Shelly said it just today in the paper that if everyone in Labor really cared to get out of bed and walk down the street to vote for her, President Peres could be within his responsible rights to give her a shot at forming the government.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I can’t help wondering what it would be like if every Israeli would just do what they should do and vote whether you can find the perfect candidate or not. So what? Find the best one or the least of the evils, as my father says, or the one who has the best shot at making Bibi’s time in office shorter or even longer but whatever you do, go out and vote!

I’m publishing this post today, I hope in enough time for somebody to get inspired to do the right thing: Change your mind, if you’d rather sit this one out. Get up, get dressed and go and vote!

I only want to influence one person. I hope it’s you.

If you want to track the returns in real time, you can do this after 22:00 tonight. Just click on:

As of 11:00 today, this site doesn’t appear to be “live” just yet, so I would definitely wait until 22:00 or so before I got discouraged. I double-checked the web address according to Sharon Udasin’s article on page 6 of today’s Jerusalem Post this morning. Her brief but helpful article describes the E-Government initiative where the finance ministry is launching applications today for tracking votes and locating polling stations.

I’ll be in Tel Aviv this evening with the foreign press, The Israel Project and the Government Press Office. I’ve been accorded official access because of this blog, hosted by The Times of Israel website (toda raba, TOI!). I even get to ride a “magic bus” with all these merry pranksters. We’re heading down to the coast to hang out in Hanger 1 where the Israeli Election Coverage Headquarters and Media Central will be located tonight. I’ll be participating (certainly largely observing, I’m sure) in all the interviews and events with the pundits, political party representatives, and other talking heads who will be giving a real time analysis as the election returns come in. I’m bringing my computer to write as I go along and hopefully, I’ll get the next post out by sunrise or shortly thereafter. So look for my next post on tonight’s events. It’s sure to be at least different, if not unique, getting a new oleh’s perspective of his first election night observing the actual coverage of the event from an inside track…

…sort of like being inside an MC Escher drawing which I can’t legally show you but if you go to the website below and page down to the third drawing, that would be me there in the corner looking on:

So, tonight I will be looking to solve my own incompleteness theorem (click on the website and read the caption under the drawing), trying to put together a picture of how this election is going to turn out (I love a good Sudoku puzzle).

Unfortunately, we can’t get inside the room with all the MKs who will get a seat tonight in the 19th Knesset. We won’t be privy to all the back room dealing in the coming days and we won’t see how the coalition really came to fruition. It’s like a magic trick or something but for any part of that story, we all have to wait a little while yet.

Okay, enough with convoluted pictures and words…here’s the straight skinny as I used to say in America:

Please, get out there and vote, if you haven’t done so yet. Do it for someone you love or to set an example for a child, maybe. If you aren’t quite sure where to go, read my last blog post for a web link that’s easy to use. I even gave you the directions on how to plug in your ID to find exactly where to go. Make sure you vote before 22:00.

I hope you have a little better luck than me today but if you’re supposed to vote at the Experimental school on Rabbi Akiva at number eleven (not seven), go all the way to the back and across the playground into the other building.

Don’t worry, you’ll find the door!


About the Author
David Lasoff is an American Jew from Southern California. He made aliyah in May 2012 and is now the director of the department of Applied English Linguistics for the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem. He teaches academic writing and supervises the school's English language learning programs.