Tuesday, January 28, 2003

I love Election Day!
For the last fourteen years I’ve lived across the road from two different polling stations. On Election Day I love watching the continuous stream of people going in to have their say.

I’m told that in Israel the percentage of voters is always high in comparison with other Western-style democracies. This time, a particularly low turnout is expected, but it’s already looking like it’s going to be a bit higher than the low turnout in the 2001 special vote for Prime Minister (when the Arabs boycotted the election).

I’m always excited when I’m actually in the polling booth with the envelope. First of all, I can never find the piece of paper with the letters I’m looking for, representing the party of my choice. And then, when I’ve found it at last and put it in the envelope, I always have to check myself. I open the envelope again just to be sure, forever afraid that I’ve got it wrong. My fingers always shake a little when I put the envelope into the ballot.

And this time was no exception. I’m not feeling too well and I wasn’t looking forward to standing in line, but once again I queued up outside my daughters’ English classroom in their little school, which is our polling station. I could see I wasn’t the only one excited. I noticed the guy before me held his breath and smiled before putting his envelope in the ballot, as if for good luck. It doesn’t matter to me that he could have been voting for a party I disagree with. This is very mushy, I know, but I feel an affinity with all the people in the polling station. These are my fellow citizens who have come to do their duty and realize their right to take part in the democratic process. By coming, they are showing that they trust and believe in the Israeli democracy.

Bish still votes at the polling station of our old address. He hasn’t changed his address with the Ministry of Interior. He told of an amusing thing that happened while he was voting. A lady of over seventy went behind the booth with her envelope and then came back out again and asked the Polling Committee people what was the difference between the “Green” Party (the environmental party) and the “Green Leaf” Party (the legalize-marijuana party). They told her to look at the poster explaining the different parties and the letters representing them. But she said no, she didn’t need the letters, she just didn’t understand the difference between them. The Committee members explained to her patiently that they are not allowed to tell her such a thing and again suggested she read the poster. Bish said it took a while for them to convince her that she wasn’t going to get any explanations about content from them. I wonder what she voted for in the end. And why.

There’s been a lot of talk about Israeli democracy being in danger lately, mainly from the left side of the political map and the more left slanted parts of the media. Their reasons for saying this may be well based, but I ask myself why I should take them seriously, considering that for the first thirty years of this state’s existence there was one major party that always won national elections and ruled the country with a high hand. In those days, to be any sort of part of the establishment you had to first prove your loyalty by being in possession of a membership booklet of the Histadrut, the Workers’ Union (among other things).

I’m sure you’re wondering for whom I voted. Well, I’m not telling. I don’t have to tell and I’m not going to. So there.