Israel’s election from the lens of British Olim voting for the first time!
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Israel’s election from the lens of British Olim voting for the first time!

We speak to three recent immigrants to Israel from the UK as they reflect on their experience of casting their vote!

British Jews who have recently made Aliyah – share their experiences of being first time voters in the Israeli election!

Luke Hanns, who made aliyah from London in October 2018

Whilst the political tension seems stronger in Israel, most Israelis are much more laid back and open about who they support. I would have thought it was the opposite, given to the tension between Jews and Arabs, religious and secular.

What struck me was the informality of voting. A mere pen mark on a voting card could invalidate it, yet anyone can take anything into the voting room. No-one can see you behind the privacy panel so anyone could scribble on voting cards and people wouldn’t know their votes aren’t valid. There seemed to be no security at my polling station, despite security into any public building in Israel being required.

Although Israel is technologically advanced, the voting system is archaic. Everything is done on paper – you enter, they look up your details in a paper book, then direct you to your allocated polling station, which is a foreign concept to me as you should be free to vote anywhere.

Luke Hanns at the ballot booth

British graduate engineer Oliver Hazan made aliyah in January 2017 and told Jewish News this week how he had found voting in Israel for the first time:

Voting wasn’t so different from the UK, although finding the right slip of paper out of 39 is a little challenging! The election information is mostly in Hebrew. At my polling station there was some info in Arabic and Russian. I didn’t see any English.

People seem to be more open talking about whom they voted for. Attitudes here seem quite varied. I haven’t noticed any real difference from the UK in that there is just as much passion and apathy all round. The right-wing is quite passionate about preventing a leftist government and that rhetoric has definitely seeped through into some of the discourse.

Oliver Hazan

The advertising is certainly much more direct and individual. It’s more about the party leaders. They play a much bigger role in defining the campaign. It’s as much them as the party itself that you’re voting for.

There are definitely more posters, and when you have that many parties competing, the volume of material is a lot higher!

Today, I’m doing what a lot of Israelis are doing – taking advantage of the day off and having a small barbecue.

Karen Pomerance, who made aliyah in January 2018 and lives in Ra’anana:

To vote today made me feel very proud. I found it fairly straightforward. I didn’t get a voting slip in the post (Israeli post is not the most reliable) but I knew where my voting station was and just needed my ID. It took around 10 minutes. There were lots of slips of paper, with so many random parties, so you needed to know who you wanted to vote for before you went in, as it wasn’t obvious on the slips. Some sort of secret Israeli code!

Karen casting her vote

As I left the booth they jokingly told me I should vote for the Queen. I agreed, saying maybe she was the person to solve Brexit.

In general, the experience was painless and not too dissimilar from the UK, apart from the shouting match I witnessed as I left between Bibi and Gantz supporters. That isn’t something I ever saw in leafy Hertfordshire but it’s pretty normal here. Still, I’m happy and proud to be Israeli!

 

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