I technically became an Israeli about a half hour after landing in Ben Gurion Airport. So even though I've lived here less than a year, I've already voted twice!
First, I voted in the most hard-fought mayoral election I've ever seen. In Kiryat Bialik, posters hung from balconies and papered fences in April, even though voting wasn't until mid-November. I was harrassed by candidates on my way into to the supermarket. My mikvah lady-- after she'd watched me dunk naked into water each month as part of a religious ritual-- took advantage of this vulnerable state by asking me to vote her son onto the city council. "He's a good boy. Will you vote for him?" she asked every month from May on. "Yes!" I would yelp. "Please hand me my towel!" Instead, she'd give me a glossy campaign flyer. (For the record, she is a lovely woman and she said "hi" to me one time at the fish monger's, which impressed me because I wasn't sure she'd recognize me with clothes on.)
Those elections reflected Kiryat Bialik's horror that it is being replaced by our neighboring town-- Kiryat Motzkin-- as the nicest one of the clump of towns called "Kiryat Something" just north of Haifa. A representative campaign flyer featured pictures Kiryat Bialik Now (trash at the side of storm drains) next to pictures of Kiryat Bialik Future (flowering traffic islands... in Kiryat Motzkin). Another ad trumpeted the fact that Candidate X was running second in the polls!! Even our mayoral candidates suffered from an inferiority complex.
When we walked to our polling station for the national elections early this month, the streets were wet and deserted. National elections are holidays here, and so the entire country emptied into the malls for election day sales. A few banners dripped outside polling stations.
Israelis literally cast ballots-- or rather seal our votes into envelopes and cast them into a locked box. No hanging chads here, but plenty of room fun kinds of voter fraud! (At one polling station, someone replaced the stack of paper for one party with paper that had another party's symbol printed on the back side!)
After presenting ID to the people manning our polling station (what a novel concept! I never had to do that in America!), I stepped behind a cardboard screen and chose a piece of paper with my party's "letter" on it. (I stole one; it's in the picture above.) Then I sealed the piece of paper into an envelope and brought my envelope out of the booth to deposit in the lockbox up front. I felt so sure of myself because I'd already voted once, as opposed to the municipal election when I got yelled at for possible attempted terrorism (I brought my bag into the polling room) until the polling people heard my accent, at which point they decided I was a dimwitted olah chadasha who deserved a bit of coddling, and a nice woman showed me what to do.
My husband's Israeli-Polish grandfather just said "Jews always lie about who they vote for" when we tried to ask him which way he leaned. (He lived through the Holocaust AND spent time in the Gulag, so his attitude is understandable.) I won't tell you who I voted for either-- but it wasn't Tsipi Livni or Bibi Netanyahu. Now I'm just trying to figure out who won the election...
65% of Israelis voted in the last elections, so if you want to be Israeli, definitely vote. Who would you have voted for? Do Jews always lie about who they vote for? Discuss. :)