I’ve been disenfranchised!

While everyone is talking about the US elections – Obama or Romney, very quietly the Bayit HaYehudi party went about holding its elections for chairperson today. From a very young age, I was enthralled by the LIkud party of Menachem Begin. I read his book, The Revolt, and his words resonated in my soul – the lesson of the Holocaust, he wrote, was that there were things, “more precious than life and more horrible than death.”

Within a short time of making aliyah, I joined the Likud party only to find that the party of Menachem Begin was no longer. I stayed too long, believing, hoping, praying, that it would return – a party of strength, commitment, decisiveness. The first time I was disenfranchised in my life – was when Arik Sharon took my vote away. He stole it, betrayed it, abandoned it, neglected it.

More than once, party shenanigans and manipulations cheated me out of a chance to vote for the leaders of Likud or played games with the votes that were cast because the leadership didn’t like the outcome once the vote had been cast. It was my vote – denied, stolen, or ignored, so many times.

Earlier this year, I took it back. I left the Likud, sure I would never look back. But I was faced with a dilemma. It’s easy to choose the parties you don’t want. Kadima…no way; Labor…are you kidding me? Yesh Atid? Not with Yair Lapid.

I finally settled on Bayit haYehudi because I had heard the words of two young men – speaking in two different languages. In Hebrew, Naftali Bennett touched my heart when he turned to a speaker who kept referring to “the settlers.” The settlers need peace so they can get on with their lives, this misinformed person said. “They are living in limbo.” No, I wanted to scream, I’m living in a beautiful city on the edge of the Judean Desert!

The settlers, the person continued…the settlers…the settlers…the settlers. Finally, it was Naftali Bennet’s turn to speak. He calmly turned to the other man, “we aren’t settlers, we are PEOPLE.” In a room filled with applause, I bowed my head in thanks.

A few weeks later, I heard Jeremy Gimpel speak. He spoke of the changes he wants to bring to the Israeli political system. Accountability, where there has been none. Accessibility, where there is little. We felt we’d found a home and joined.

And today, we went to vote in the election to choose the Chairperson of the party – and found…yup, I’d been disenfranchised again. This time, likely by sheer incompetence. We filed four membership registration forms from our family – for ourselves and for two sons – that evening. My husband and one son made the list of eligible voters. My older son and I did not appear. Our ID numbers are not recognized. We don’t exist, despite giving them the forms and credit card information at the same time as my husband and middle son.

Worse, when we tried to find someone to help us, we were directed to three different phone numbers. All ringing endlessly or busy. We finally got through to the first number – you have the wrong place. We’re not responsible for the list.

We finally got through to the second – the man who answered couldn’t do anything either; he was just an answering service. “Tell them to give you back your  money,” he advised. And when we tried to clarify it, with the wonderful help of Jeremy Gimpel’s campaign manager through a Facebook connection, he told us about how he was working to try to help so many others. The party moved a Katamon voting location without telling voters – it’s estimated that 40 people lost their right to vote there.

A friend went to the same location that I did to vote in Maale Adumim. She and her husband approached the people…as I did a short time later. Like me, her husband was informed he did not exist in the list. He found out that for reasons unknown, his voting place had been changed from near his home to the center of Jerusalem. That’s at least three more that we know about.

According to one news site, yeshiva students, soldiers and students were assured that they could vote at any polling center, only to find that this was not true. More lost votes; more people denied a say in a party that is hoping to be our voice.

I spoke to someone “in the know.” He estimated that about TWO HUNDRED people lost the right to vote today in this election for the party leadership. There was a mess in Katamon and a mess of unknown proportions in Maale Adumim – maybe it was only my son, our friend, and me…maybe it was others.

Whatever it was – after working to promote the party, blogging about it, and coming to vote, it was a bad start to what I had hoped would be a long relationship. I won’t return to the Likud – but I can’t help wondering if Bayit HaYehudi will really be my home in the future.

Sure, anyone can mess up…but what will they do to fix it? What of those of us who lost our vote today? Yeah, it’s only a small vote…maybe…but in two weeks, they will again hold primaries – this time to vote in the full party lineup.

It’s a terrible feeling to be disenfranchised, to walk out of a polling station after being denied the right to vote. I can only hope whatever massive blunders occurred tonight will be fixed so that no one will be forced to walk away with the idea that the party they chose…didn’t really care enough to choose them back.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.