"In Israel, No Vote is Left Behind"
Guest Blog by Lazar Berman
Elections in Israel are a momentous occasion, as we celebrate as a nation our right to democracy. We all venture out to the public poll stations, and together, decide on the future of our country. It is incredibly important for every citizen to exercise their right to vote, however, it isn’t always easy to do so. There are many areas in the country, among the elderly, the impoverished, the outskirt populations, that don’t always have easy access to these rights.
Lazar, an Israeli journalist living in Jerusalem, invites us into his experience in helping these populations during last year’s elections. As we enter this country’s 4th election, although it may feel tiring and ridiculous at times, we must remember that this is actually democracy working it’s magic!
“In last year's elections, I was approached by a friend about working on one of Israel’s major political parties' “get-the-vote-out” effort on election day in Jerusalem. After getting up early to make sure I voted, I met my friend Yoni at the party's headquarters in town. We loaded up his car with political swag, grabbed a bullhorn, and drove around town playing a loop of the party's election theme song.
I'm going to be honest with you - there are better road trip soundtracks out there!
We reached our destination, a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The population was heavily Ethiopian, including many new immigrants who spoke little Hebrew, if at all. There was the mix that one finds in every hardscrabble Jerusalem neighborhood - elderly Kurds and Moroccans, Russians, Ethiopians.
I was somewhat taken aback by the conditions that many of the families were living in. At the same time, I was heartened by the fact that even though the circumstances clearly were not good - and not something one always expects to find in Israel's capital city, the poverty wasn't distorting. Families seemed happy together, neighbors knew each other and looked to be enjoying each other’s company, and people opened their doors with a friendliness that suggested a positive sense of community within the crumbling apartment blocks.
We knocked on a door and we were met by an elderly Mizrahi lady. We explained that we were there to help her reach the voting station no matter who she was voting for, and she said, "I've been waiting for you to show up!" No one had told her that we were coming, but she had faith that someone, somehow, would be there to help her participate in Israeli democracy. She was already dressed to head out when she opened the door.
I walked her down the stairs, and helped get into the car, and off she went with Yoni to vote for whoever she chose to. I turned around, and headed back into the apartment building for round two.”