They REALLY don’t count us: Who stole 60 votes for Meretz from Kibbutz Samar?

Along with 192 other people, I voted on Tuesday at Kibbutz Samar, in full belief that my vote would be counted. I took my 12-year-old son with me, showed him how I check that I have only one note in my envelope, and asked him if he agrees with my choice of Meretz. He agreed, I sealed the envelope, and together we put it in the box. My husband served as the vice-chair of the polling station; in the afternoon he was replaced by a different member of the kibbutz, who, along with the other polling officials sent to assure legal voting, counted the results at 20:00.

The results were not surprising for a left-wing, self-described anarchic kibbutz: 82 for the Zionist Union, 60 Meretz, 14 Likud, 10 “Green Leaf” (the party in favor of legalizing marijuana), 8 Yesh Atid, 6 Culanu, and the rest scattered among the other parties. So imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning, turned on my computer and discovered that in the official election results for Kibbutz Samar Lieberman received 60 votes and Meretz did not receive even one.
map of election results

You can find the official results in Hebrew here.

We have reported the problem to the Elections Committee, to Meretz, and to the head of the Hevel Elot Regional Council. As of Thursday, the only web site to publish this item was the Hebrew-language Cannabis Magazine; on Friday it reached Ha’aretz (Hebrew edition only). Samar is not the only poll with illogical results; according to the Ha’aretz article, several polling places in Arab towns reported no votes for the United Arab List, and many for the parties listed before and after it.

The election results will not change if these mistakes are corrected, and while I hope that safeguards will be put in place to prevent similar mistakes in the future, I do not seriously question the validity of the national election results. What hurts the most is the fact that three days after submitting a complaint, the elections committee has not responded.

In Hebrew we often say “they don’t count us” to express our feeling of being overlooked by people in authority. This is what we are feeling now – they just do not count us. Maybe somebody did this as a joke. Maybe it’s just a technical error. But, hey, the right won and the left lost, so who cares about the votes of a bunch of hippies living in the middle of the desert?

Yes, we’re a bunch of hippies living in the desert, and we are quite proud of it. We manage to support ourselves mainly through agriculture (dates and dairy) without relying on foreign workers. We have developed technological solutions for labor-intensive work to enable this, and we freely share our solutions with our neighbors and private companies. Despite the fact that we depend on land to make our living, we have donated land to the Parks and Nature Authority and led the fight to save the Samar Sand Dunes. We have 100 members aged 30-65, and would probably have more if we could only get mortgages to build more housing. We live according to a philosophy that each individual member has both freedom and responsibility: freedom to choose where and how he or she works and spends money; responsibility to take into consideration the needs of the community when doing so. While Samar is not a utopia and we often face hardships, we have succeeded in keeping up this lifestyle for nearly 40 years.

Samar is definitely a leftist community. Our entire way of life is based on social-anarchist philosophy. Our produce is organic. We argue over whether or not to sound a siren on Memorial Day. We are the Southern Arava version of the North Tel Aviv elite leftists, whom the right accuses of being condescending and patronizing and cut off from the “real” Israel. But here in the Arava, our lives feel very real. We wake up at 4 a.m. to milk cows, and then read headlines saying that our “mighty agricultural lobby” is ruining the country. We develop machines to lower the need for foreign workers, and then are told that since we do not employ foreign workers, we can’t get a special grant for reducing the number of foreign workers. We have lived on the border with Jordan as an enemy and as a cold ally, and we know that the latter is preferable; our immediate defense is entirely in our own hands. Nearly all our children serve in the army, in combat, intelligence, radar, and other units, and many of them do a year of social service before enlisting, but as leftists supporting a 2-state solution we are seen as starry-eyed idealists who do not understand .the enemy.

At Samar we do not like to call attention to ourselves; when reporters come the community is warned ahead of time so that those who wish can avoid the cameras. But we want to be counted. Not having our votes counted is the last in a long series of insults by the current administration, which will apparently be the next as well. Our housing needs are not counted. Our health needs are not counted. Our economic needs are not counted. And now, our votes are not counted.

My 17-year-old son’s draft notice, for July 2016, is hanging on our bulletin board. Apparently, only the army remembers to count us.

About the Author
A member of Kibbutz Samar, Marjorie has lived in the Arava since 1987, working as a dairy farmer, treasurer, grant writer, and chief cat-herd. She currently directs the Southern Arava Agricultural Research and Development Center. Marjorie is married, with three children aged 12-22. She grew up in NJ and holds a BA from Cornell University and an MSc in agricultural economics from Hebrew University.