Incumbent Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat and rival Moshe Lion took to the streets
in a final push to get out their message and influence the vote in what turned
out to be a particularly tight race.
A poll conducted last week for The
Jerusalem Post and Globes last week gave Barkat a six-point lead over Lion, but
as the day wore on, the mayor’s campaign became increasingly nervous and called
on the public several times to get out and vote.
Both contenders started
their day at the Western Wall and then went to cast their votes – Lion in the
German Colony, and Barkat in his neighborhood of Beit HaKerem.
turnout in Jerusalem was reported as slightly lower than the rest of the
country, with 32% of eligible voters making it to the voting booth by 8:30 p.m.
as opposed to 42% nationwide. The Arab population of Jerusalem, some 35% of the
capital, refrains from voting, thus skewing the voting pattern in the city when
compared with other municipal districts.
The low turnout was expected to
help Lion, given the generally high haredi motivation to vote in accordance with
their rabbis’ instructions.
Noting the low voting figures, Barkat urged
people to vote, saying “The battle is ongoing, nothing has been decided.
Everyone has to go and vote in order to guarantee the future of Jerusalem.” His
campaign pointed in particular to the low turnout in the non-haredi
neighborhoods of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Har Homa and Talpiot.
Deri are counting on the fact that you won’t vote,” added Barkat, in reference
to Lion’s major political patrons. “This is the moment to take responsibility
for our future and the future of Jerusalem. Everyone is obligated to go out,
vote, and ensure that Jerusalem continues in the right
Tensions escalated around the elections for the municipal
council as well, with the moderate haredi party Tov reporting several
disturbances and incidents of violence directed toward its
Tear gas was sprayed at Tov activists in the haredi
neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi in north Jerusalem. United Hatzala reported that
one man was lightly injured but left the scene without further
Several other Tov desks around the city reported incidents in
which their signs and pamphlets were destroyed and torn up.
man, speaking with The Jerusalem Post next to a Tov stand, said that party was
committing a “desecration of God’s name” by running for election against the
wishes of the senior haredi rabbinical leaders, but he condemned any violent
The current elections have witnessed the publication of numerous
letters and statements by leading haredi rabbis calling on members of their
community to vote for the haredi political parties.
Some of these public
statements have included the promise of blessings for voting for the party in
question, as well as warnings of spiritual consequences for failing to do so or
for voting for alternative factions.
Israeli law explicitly prohibits
these promises, and the Hiddush religious-equality lobbying group said it will
collate all such statements after the election and demand that the
attorney-general open investigations and prosecute, where necessary, those who
had made such comments.
Punishment for breaking such laws could be up to
five years’ imprisonment.
On Monday, a letter was published on the front
page of the haredi daily Yated Ne’eman in the name of Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, the
second-most senior haredi rabbi in the country.
He wrote that it was an
“absolute obligation” to vote for United Torah Judaism, adding that anyone
voting for the party “will be blessed with children, a good living and pride in
Hiddush director and Reform Rabbi Uri Regev said that
given the large number of infractions of the election laws on this issue, it
seemed as if the law was worthless during the current campaign.
to see that the haredi parties do not trust the intelligence of their voters and
need to disturb the dead from their resting place in order to try and influence
voters,” said Regev.