Adi Shlapok (left) and Yuval Peretz vote in the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.
(photo credit: OMRI NAHMIAS)
WASHINGTON – There were no campaign signs, stickers or volunteers outside the Israeli Embassy at the nation’s capital. Most of the 347 diplomats and emissaries who are eligible to vote entered the Jerusalem Hall in a slow but steady pace. But other than a small A4 sign “ballot box,” one could never tell that early voting was under way.
Far from the charged campaign atmosphere in Israel, standing in line with military attaches and Jewish Agency officials was a quiet and polite experience, like being at a dentist’s waiting room.
Yuval Peretz, who works at the Naval Attaché office, voted for the first time.
“I tried to get as involved as I could,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “I tried to stay tuned to all the campaigns ads, and I don’t think I was less involved politically because I was here. I think I was even more involved politically because I felt the need to stay in touch.”
Asked about her feelings voting in a sterile environment, she admitted “It’s pretty strange. There was definitely more of an atmosphere in Israel. But it’s really nice that they gave us this platform and that it’s so organized, and that although there’s not so much of a buzz around it, that has been the main topic – the lunch topic – for the past few weeks anyways, so it’s been kind of anticipated.”
Karin Naor, wife of an Israeli diplomat, told the Post: “It is my second time voting overseas. It is strange because it’s disconnected from the ‘hype’ is Israel; from this special moment that everyone is waiting for.”
“We were exposed to far fewer campaign ads compared to our time in Israel. There are no TV ads here; obviously, it is more selective, depending on what we choose to read. There’s actually something pleasant about that.”
Brig.-Gen. Amir Keren, Air Force Attaché in Washington, told the Post there’s not much of a difference between voting in the US and voting overseas. “I am used to that [atmosphere] because in Israel, I voted in an army polling station. In both cases, we are practicing our democratic right.”
Adi Shlapok, who works at the Embassy, was excited to stand in line to vote. “It is a very interesting experience to vote overseas for the first time, but the fact of the matter is that there are so many Israelis here, that I feel like I’m voting there.”
She told the Post that she saw the same amount of campaign ads as if she was living in Israel. “In today’s social media era, we see everything, watching the news from Israel, we read the tweets and posts on Facebook.”
Elad Strohmayer, spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel in Washington, told the Post that turnout among Israelis abroad is higher compared to the overall participation rate in Israel. “These are people who represent the country abroad, and we understand how important it is to exercise our right here. I anticipate a high turnout.”
He added that there are about 1,700 people eligible to vote in Canada and the US. “Everyone who’s a diplomat or an emissary of the government of Israel abroad is eligible to vote. We have 96 polling stations around the world in 77 countries with over 5,000 eligible voters. After today’s vote, the ballot box is going with a secured courier directly to the warehouses of the election committee until election night. When the polling stations in Israel are closed, then they are going to also open these ballot boxes, and it will be added to the general count.”
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