Emotions swung like a seesaw from tension to excitement and back again at the
party headquarters Bayit Yehudi had set up in a Kfar Maccabiah ballroom in Ramat
Gan on Tuesday night.
As polls closed, reporters and politicians checked
their SMS messages and looked at television polls on their smart phones as it
appeared that Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid was the surprise miracle politician of the
night, instead of Bayit Yehudi party head Naftali Bennett.
“We do not
count our eggs before they are hatched,” said Bayit Yehudi candidate Jeremy
Gimpel, who is 14th on the party’s list.
“To go from five mandates [in
the last Knesset] to 12 is huge,” he said.
He had just arrived from
Jerusalem and was seeing the numbers for the first time.
his home after the exit polls, said the results showed that Bayit Yehudi “had
returned to the center of Israeli politics.”
MK Uri Ariel, who was in the
last Knesset under the National Union, and is No. 2 2 on the Bayit Yehudi list,
“Let’s see what the numbers show tomorrow morning,” he
But, he noted, that already the results are a victory for the
national religious camp, which has now returned to power.
Ariel said he
was hopeful that the party would be in the government, but if not, he said,
“we’ll be in the opposition.”
Unofficial initial poll numbers from
Channel 2 had Yesh Atid as the second largest party with 19, while Bennett was
tied with Shas for 12.
Reporters from all Israeli media, as well as some
foreign outlets, including the BBC, had set up small studio
Inside the crowded room adorned with green and blue balloons a
stage was set up at the front, with a large white screen showing screens from
Israel’s three news stations, 1, 2 and 10. The party’s anthem, “Something new is
starting” played loudly. A few young activists burst into song and waved Israeli
flags as they waited for Bennett to appear.
On Tuesday morning Bennett
was greeted by screaming and clapping activists shouting, “Here comes the next
prime minister,” as he headed to cast his vote in Ra’anana.
placing his blue envelope in the box, he paused for the cameras, and said,
“Something new is happening in Israel. When I see religious, secular and Druse
[voters] uniting behind Bayit Yehudi, I believe we can do something good for
Party politicians traveled from the South to the North
soliciting support throughout the day.
Motti Yogen, Deputy Binyamin
Regional Council head, began his morning by voting in his home settlement of
Dolev at 7 a.m. Then he traveled north to Jaffa, Haifa, Kiryat Ata and Tirat
Carmel before heading to the Samaria and Binyamin region.
he touted the party’s message of unity.
“We are here after a long
journey,” he said, as he looked out at the crowded ballroom.
“I am very
happy and expecting good things for Israel, he told The Jerusalem
He was glad to see that in the party’s branches where he traveled
were activists of all stripes: religious, secular, kibbutz members and city
residents all gathered together under the Bayit Yehudi banner.
earlier in the day, under the afternoon sun, one young party activist was not as
In Jerusalem’s German Colony, a heavily English speaking
neighborhood, he gave up trying to find supportive voters.
teen, wearing jeans, a kippa and a white Bayit Yehudi T-shirt, took a nap on the
grass underneath a large green Meretz sign, which appeared to be the party of
choice at his voting station.
But a short distance away, in the
settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, the third largest Jewish West Bank city, and a
known Likud stronghold, it was hard to spot a Meretz sign.
Ma’aleh Adumim roads were lined with signs for Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and
Two young Likud volunteers, Yaakov Amsalem and Tomer
Peretz, hung out by a polling station and urged everyone to vote Likud, although
they admitted that pretty much any right-wing party was fine by them.
they liked Netanyahu’s experience and appreciated that he had agreed to advance
plans to construct 3,500 new homes in an un-built area of the city known as
A larger group of female teenage activists who stood on the opposite
side of the stairwell leading to the polls, however, were not
Emona Peretz, 14, was too young to vote, but hoped to make a
difference by swaying voters to support Bayit Yehudi.
“They stand for the
Torah and a united Israel,” she said.
“The Likud will give up territory
in Judea and Samara, but the Bayit Yehudi won’t.”
One young couple that
plan to marry this summer entered the Ma’aleh Adumim polling station
“I’m voting for Strong Israel,” said Oz Hayuka.
to support Bennett,” said his fiancée, Sivan Sasson.” She turned to the Likud
activists and said, “who should he support, Strong Israel, or Bennett?” “Bayit
Yehudi,” they shot back.
“See? Even they agree with me,” she
When they emerged, she said, “He voted my way.”