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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Can't We Just Get Along?

Well, in a few more hours, we'll know how our elections turned out. It's funny that living in a small, off-the-beaten-path, generally right-wing town, we are so removed from what's going on in other parts of the country. I can't think of too many of my friends of acquaintances who are voting for anything to the left of the center, but every once in awhile, I'm reminded that what we see here isn't terribly indicative of the mood in the rest of the country.

As I went to vote today (spoiler alert: I voted for Bayit HaYehudi but don't much care) I stood in line with two Hassidic men and two young women -- daughters of a neighbor. One of the girls had come back from her home in Tel Aviv to vote (a lot of the young people maintain their residents in the peripheral regions because of tax breaks) and stated, quite openly and loudly (thank goodness, in English, so at least the Hassidic guys couldn't understand) "I'm voting for X because I want them (nodding at the men) OUT of the Kenesset." Then her boyfriend came over and said, with a look at these same guys, "check to make sure that there are Meretz (left-wing party) slips in the voting booth."

Well, I don't live in Mongolia and I know exactly why the left-wingers are disgusted with the Haredim (ultra-orthodox) as much as I know why the ultra-orthodox are disgusted with the left-wingers. But where is it going to stop? Or is it time to simply say, flat out, that the Israeli society is going to become more and more fragmented, and there's nothing to do about it?

At least everyone comes out to vote.

Someone else in line was commenting about the "primitive" way in which Israelis vote. Basically, you go in, show your identity card, and receive an envelope after three monitors check, double check and triple check that you are who you say that you are and that you haven't voted yet. You then go behind a curtain and choose one of the slips of the parties who are running from among the 20 or so slips presented. Each party has a two-letter identifying code to make it easy. then you drop your envelope in a box, take your ID card and leave.  

The system is basically the same one that Israelis have been using since the first Israeli elections in 1949. And it's true, it's pretty "primitive." On the other hand, everyone is enfranchised. Even if you can't read, you can recognize your slip. The system ensures that no one votes more than once. There are no hanging chads. Election day is a national holiday to make it easy for everyone to vote. If you need to travel to your voting station, there is free transportation to and from your voting station on election day. Pretty amazing.

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