Israeli emissaries abroad denied right to vote

"You’d think there would be a way for us to cast our ballots," National Service emissary writes.

January 21, 2013 02:17
1 minute read.
Ballots are printed ahead of elections

Ballots are printed ahead of elections 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Emissaries of Israeli NGOs stationed around the world are Israeli citizens serving their country abroad – but they can’t vote, much to their frustration.

The only citizens permitted to vote in Israeli embassies and consulates, according to the Election Law, are diplomats or emissaries who receive their salary from the Jewish Agency.

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Meanwhile, hundreds of emissaries from youth groups, and religious and educational NGOs – most of whom are recognized and even trained by the Jewish Agency – are not allowed to exercise their right to vote unless they fly back to Israel.

Dalia Shapira, 20 and of Ra’anana, is currently doing National Service (Sherut Leumi) through religious-Zionist youth group Bnei Akiva in Scarsdale, NY, and was notified that she cannot vote at the Israeli consulate in New York.

“As emissaries, who are sent on a mission for the People of Israel – you would think they would do something [to make it possible to vote] even if we do not work directly for the Jewish Agency,” Shapira wrote in response to a query by The Jerusalem Post.

“We [emissaries] all have the same Zionist goal. Why does it matter who we get our salary from?” she asked.

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Giyora Lev, who is serving as an emissary with his wife Sharon in Gotheburg, Sweden, called the policy undemocratic.

“We didn’t know when we were sent abroad that we wouldn’t be able to vote,” Lev, who was trained by the Jewish Agency and is an emissary of both the World Zionist Organization and Bnei Akiva, explained. “It was very clear to me that as emissaries, we should be allowed to.”

Lev originally heard from colleagues that he would not be able to vote, before receiving an official notice. "The law needs to be changed, but it’ll be too late to help us,” he added.

Tor Tzok, an emissary of Hillel International at Columbia University, is in Israel with a Birthright group this week, but also said “it’s very frustrating that I would not be able to vote [in New York].”

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