President Shimon Peres was one of the first to exercise his democratic right on Tuesday, casting his ballot at a polling station set up at the High School for the Arts near his residence in Jerusalem.
"You can hesitate over who to vote for, but don't hesitate to vote," Peres said.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who voted at the same polling station as Peres, arrived at 7 a.m. to find that the station was deserted, and had to wait 40 minutes until he could vote.
The voting process prior to Peres' arrival at 8.30 a.m. was very slow, and some people standing in line became impatient, saying they didn't get up early in order to waste time.
There was a massive media turnout at the polling station for Peres, with both foreign and local TV crews and still photographers who jostled for space in the narrow confines of the classroom at the Jerusalem School for the Arts, with ugly exchanges between local and foreign media with an Israeli cameraman telling a stubborn Chinese photographer who refused to budge: "You are not the boss here."
When Peres came in, he shook hands with the three people in charge of the polling booth and asked whether they were there on time, and if everything had gone smoothly without any slip-ups. They said that everything was fine, and Peres seemed inclined to believe them.
Before casting his vote, he greeted the media and then went behind the screen, spending a little more time there than was expected. He then came back with his ballot in an envelope which remained poised over the ballot box until photographers gave him the green light to put it in.