President Shimon Peres was an early bird voter at the Jerusalem High School for the Arts on Tuesday. Although Peres owns an apartment in Tel Aviv and has been a registered resident of Tel Aviv for more than half a century, he has voted in Knesset and municipal elections in Jerusalem throughout the period of his presidency.
He had been scheduled to arrive at the polling station at 8.30 a.m. but was in fact eight minutes late. Several people had already voted prior to his arrival, some arriving before 8 a.m.
There was a slow but steady stream in the first hour in which the polling station was open. Most of those who came to vote were senior citizens. Some were accompanied by caregivers who helped them to descend and then mount the steep staircase leading from the street to the entrance of the school.
When Peres came in, he said a cheerful good morning to the three women in charge of his polling section, presented his blue ID card like every citizen and received a yellow and a white envelope to vote for mayor and for council faction. He then went into the polling booth and spent a little longer than his predecessors in inspecting the slips of the various factions.
When he emerged, he turned towards television cameramen and stills photographers, and with envelopes poised above the slit in the ballot box asked "Are you ready?"
There was no doubt that he'd had plenty of practice in doing this over the years.
Municipal elections are no less important than Knesset elections he said. "We can't just say that we're democratic, we have to show it. Jerusalem, he continued, is a free, democratic city and its electorate is responsible for its future.
Peres called on young and old alike to exercise their democratic right and to go out and vote. "It's important to the city and to the State," he said, adding that it was preferable to live in accordance with ballot slips than with bombs.
"I have fulfilled my duty," he said as he turned to shake hands with members of the polling station committee,.and to proceed to his next destination which was the Palmachim air base. As he left, he passed a long line of voters who had been kept in the corridor while the president was inside the polling area.
Unlike Knesset election day, there is no public holiday for municipal elections, except for teachers and students in those schools which are used as polling stations.
Thus students and teachers at the Jerusalem High School for the Arts had a day off.
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