A visit to either Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market or Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda Market is essential to just about any political campaign – politicians mingle with the “common man,” making sure to buy some roasted sunflower seeds, a cup of coffee or a falafel.
Zionist Union’s candidates for prime minister, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, can now check that box on their campaign’s to-do list.
The duo chose to go to Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem, apparently because Mahaneh Yehuda is considered Likud territory – though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did meet a hostile café owner there this week. But even in the Carmel Market, they were not met by hordes of enthusiastic supporters.
As Herzog and Livni arrived, they were surrounded by far more press than members of the public, though one elderly woman could be seen clapping and shouting “revolution” together with the activists waving Zionist Union flags and wearing shirts featuring Herzog’s visage and the slogan “a responsible leader.”
Another man threw candy and shouted “the next prime minister,” while a nearby vendor muttered, using an Arabic expletive: “They’re closing down the market, kus emak.”
“Go home!” he shouted at the two politicians.
Meanwhile, a passing tourist wondered who the many members of the press were following.
At one point, as Herzog and Livni made their way through the market, people started cheering “Bibi, Bibi,” Netanyahu’s nickname, and an elderly man shouted that Livni was like women of the world’s oldest profession, saying she’d go with anyone – a reference to her move from Likud to Kadima to Hatnua, which now has joined Labor to form Zionist Union. The same man added that Herzog looked like a dead man, and that Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon would never join their coalition.
A Zionist Union staffer tried to silence him. “Why ruin this for everyone?” he asked, but the man continued yelling to Herzog that he was Zombie-esque.
Another man shouted at the two that it was undemocratic of them to support legislation meant to shutter the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom.
He added, shouting to Livni: “Your parents are turning over in their graves.
They were right-wing and now you’re worse than Meretz!” Tzachi, an investment banker from Hod Hasharon, took a break from shopping to take pictures with his phone.
“I don’t trust them,” Tzachi said of Herzog and Livni. “I don’t trust Netanyahu much more than them, but I’m a Likudnik in my blood.”
A woman looked down at the tiny dog in her purse and said in a French accent: “You don’t want Buji [Herzog’s nickname] do you?” Herzog and Livni’s handlers did manage to find two stands whose owners support Zionist Union, including Ovadia “Yinal Ha’Olam,” a minor celebrity in the Carmel Market who owns a fruit stand.
All smiles, Herzog and Livni stood with him as he threw candies to the crowd.
“I’m voting Zionist Union,” Ovadia said as the politicians moved on. “I want a revolution. I’m sick of Netanyahu, he just lies.”
The duo then stopped at Sami’s Parliament, a small restaurant in the market, where they were served fruit juice, salads, hummus and pitas. Herzog indulged in some meat-on-skewers, but Livni, a vegetarian, steered clear of them.
Esther Rachmani, who’s married to Sami and manned the cash register, said she is voting Zionist Union because she is “left-wing since the establishment of the state, no matter what.”
When asked if that’s difficult when the other vendors seem to be right-wing, Rachmani said she gets along well with everyone and shows respect to whoever visits her restaurant.
“Even the big rapist,” she added, pointing to a photo of former president Moshe Katsav eating there, and another of former defense minister Itzik Mordechai, who resigned from political life after being indicted for sexual assault.
Also on Rachmani’s wall were photos of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, two of Livni and others.
“Most of the shuk is with Kahlon, even the right-wing people,” she said. “I’m afraid Bibi will win.”
Finishing their lunch, Herzog and Livni were still unable to escape the hecklers.
“Pick him up and burp him!” a nearby cheese vendor suggested to Livni as the two made their way out of the market.