Peta Jones Pellach
Teacher and activist in Jerusalem

He agreed to vote

I had been trying to write a piece explaining why it is so important to vote in the municipal elections.

It sounds so simple that I was beginning to feel it was not worth writing.

However, after talking to an acquaintance, a long-time resident of Jerusalem, secular and committed to staying here, I knew that I had to put pen to paper.

He was almost not going to vote!

I told him that he had to.

In many ways, voting for the municipal council is more important than voting for the Knesset. It is our local municipality that controls most of the things that directly affect our daily lives.

He didn’t argue but he said it was obvious that the mayor would be re-elected. I agreed but told him that my concern was for the very important city council. That is the key to good governance.

I told him that the current Jerusalem city council did not represent either him or me. We share that – he, as a secular Jerusalemite, and me, as a woman. The majority of the current council does not represent us.

He agreed. And shrugged his shoulders.

He said he didn’t like any politicians and thought they were all in it either for money or power or both.

I reminded him that city councilors do not get paid. I told him that I had met many dedicated women and men who are volunteering to serve the city as our representatives. They are running in a variety of parties and hold a range of political views. They share a desire to serve.

Some of them are experienced and know on which committees they want to participate – the ones that matter, like planning and construction, finance and allocations.  They know that the parties that control those committees are able to make decisions to benefit their constituents.

All the candidates know that it’s a simple game – the parties with the most seats control the committees and control the money. Liberal parties have not been in control for many years because too few Jerusalemites take this vote seriously.

He was still not convinced. As all the parties promise the same thing, why vote for any of them?

I agreed with him that it can be very difficult to know for whom to vote but a vote for a party that has women in the top positions is a good start. Did you realise there were only five women in the previous council – a disgrace for a modern democracy? Look at the pictures of the candidates – that is a start. Could they be you?

The problem is that there are segments of our community and city who DO vote, in very large numbers, and other segments – the more liberal segments, who believe in pluralism and equality, who don’t.

I reminded him that I grew up in Australia where voting is compulsory and that experience had convinced me that voting is not a right but an obligation. If we want a council that serves our interests it is our duty to put it there.

He agreed to vote and I heaved a sigh of relief.

But he added that as long as most of our brothers and sisters in East Jerusalem did not vote, the council would not be representative. For that I had no answer.

About the Author
A fifth generation Australian, Peta made Aliyah in 2010. She is Senior Fellow of the Kiverstein Institute, Director of Educational Activities for the Elijah Interfaith Institute, secretary of the Jerusalem Rainbow Group for Jewish-Christian Encounter and Dialogue, a co-founder of Praying Together in Jerusalem and a teacher of Torah and Jewish History. She has visited places as exotic as Indonesia and Iceland to participate in and teach inter-religious dialogue. She also broadcasts weekly on SBS radio (Australia) with the latest news from Israel. Her other passions are Scrabble and Israeli folk-dancing.
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