They don’t want us to vote. We shouldn’t let them win.

My Facebook newsfeed is full of political ads and sponsored posts: vote for this one in Ramat-Gan and that one in Ashkelon; vote for local councils and for mayors; Vote Barkat and Vote Lion.

Those are the official ads openly run by the various campaigns, but there are other, more grassroots-y, less official-looking, funded by who-knows-whom ads:one claiming Rachel Azaria and her anti-Haredi Yerushalmim faction are secretly Haredi, one from “Likud Supporters for Barkat” while another accuses Jerusalem’s Mayor of being a candidate of the ‘Left’. A pro-Barkat group is ‘campaigning’ for opponent Moshe Lion to become Mayor…of Givatayim.

But the oddest sponsored posts are from “Jerusalem votes for nobody”, an openly anti-Barkat campaign encouraging people not to vote in the Mayoral election at all. Why?

Facebook sponsored post calling for a vote for nobody
Facebook sponsored post calling for a vote for nobody

One of the most memorable incidents in Israel’s General Election campaign this year was Shas’ “*CONVERT” campaign video. The video, still up on Shas’s YouTube channel, shows a Russian woman and a Sephardi man under a Chuppa with a fax machine which she says was provided by “Beiteinu”, a reference to Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Liberman, in return, attacked Aryeh Deri and Shas in an open letter.

Only a couple weeks later, though, it was Liberman and Deri under that chuppa, coming together in a marriage of convenience to run Moshe Lion for Mayor of Jerusalem. Deals were made with many (though not all) of the Haredi factions, and the two parties ran two different campaigns for Lion catering to two different audiences.

Shas’ campaign highlighted that Lion is a Kippa-wearing shomer-Shabbat candidate who would look after the interests of the Haredi community. Likud Beiteinu said Lion as being responsible for much of the recent city development claimed by Mayor Barkat, and presented Lion as the ‘Nationalist’ candidate by accusing Barkat of being too left-wing.

Sometimes these campaigns contradicted each other: I saw a paid YouTube ad from the Lion campaign boasting that Lion had been responsible for the (open-on-Shabbat) First Station project, while Barkat was being attacked for supporting that same project by pro-Lion campaigners in the Haredi neighborhoods.

The opinion polls today tell the story. Barkat has had support in the mid-40s for the whole campaign. Lion’s support has shot up suddenly in the last few days as the Haredi Rabbis passed on their voting instructions. The most recent poll has only 6% between the two men with 9% undecided. This election could genuinely go either way.

I’m a recent immigrant to Jerusalem, but I lived here at points under both of the last two Mayors. It’s hard to describe the change, but the city feels different now. It feels more alive, more modern, more open. There’s a positivity in the air. The professionalism and non-partisan leadership that Nir Barkat has brought to City Hall has been a major factor in this change.

Nir Barkat has huge support among the 30,000ish English-speaking Olim in Jerusaelm. We could be the deciding sector that swings the election, if we show up and vote tomorrow. Or, if we stay at home or can’t be bothered, we could swing it the other way.

If everyone with Internet access votes in the Jerusalem Mayoral election, Barkat stands the best chance of winning. If nobody with Internet access votes, Lion would win by a landslide. That’s why it pays for Barkat’s opponents to make online ads calling for people not to vote for anyone.

And that’s why, tomorrow, you should check where to vote, decide who to vote for, and then make sure to vote.

About the Author
Arieh Kovler is a public affairs, PR and communication professional. Before his aliya he was the Head of Policy and Research for Britain's Jewish Leadership Council and director of the Fair Play Campaign, the UK's coordination body against anti-Zionist activity.