Young Anglos hope to make a difference [pg. 6]

By RUBEN BROSBE
March 26, 2006 22:45
3 minute read.

 
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The country's young Anglo population is preparing to make its voice heard in Tuesday's election. By no means a monolithic group, young English-speaking immigrants will vote based on a variety of issues from safety and security to education and health care. For some Anglos, voting in Israel represents the first chance for meaningful political participation. Gila Rabinowitz is a 23-year-old immigrant from the UK who came to Israel a year and a half ago. She never voted in the UK, but she will vote on Tuesday, despite what she describes as general apathy amongst young Anglo voters. "Nobody thinks they're going to make a difference. Everyone knows that Kadima is going to win anyway," she told The Jerusalem Post last week. She planned on voting for the National Religious Party/National Union or Israel Beitenu. "It's important that religious Jews are given a voice," she said. The idea of further disengagement worried Rabinowitz. "Not giving away land is my main thing, because I made aliya and I don't want half of the land given away," she said. Issues of social justice and equality were more important for some English-speaking immigrants, like Elana Kirsh, a new immigrant from Sydney. For Kirsh, who planned to vote Labor, the "expectation that social issues will be a focus is definitely related to having a Western background." Kirsh didn't see any specific Anglo issue in the election. "I don't think Anglos in Israel are a marginalized group so there are no issues for the group itself." Guy Spigelman, a 34-year-old originally from Australia, listed No. 45 on Labor's Knesset list, saw Anglos playing a vital role in the elections. "The Anglo community represents a great source of activists," he explained, because "people who make aliya from Anglo countries usually have ideological reasons for doing so," along with a strong background of Jewish involvement. Kadima has also tried to harness that energy. Speaking on March 18 to a crowd of more than 1,200 that included some 60 Anglo immigrants, Kadima candidate Tzahi Hanegbi said: "I want you to feel that what you are doing with Kadima is the same thing that you did when you came to this country. It's an act of Zionism, it's an act of sacrifice, it's an act of idealism, and this is what we feel Kadima is respecting." Shawna Novak, a 26-year-old Kadima supporter originally from Toronto, echoed Hanegbi's statements. "I think the idea is to reach out and be able to utilize the enthusiasm, the energy… Tap into the enthusiasm for Israel itself. By doing that you'll reach a lot more young voters." As Novak saw it, the most important thing for young Anglo immigrants was a sense of participation in the country's future. Anglo involvement doesn't seem contingent on Anglo-specific issues. Ari Harow, director of Likud Anglos, mentioned hasbara (presenting Israel's case to the world), political and economic reform as important Anglo issues, but stressed that the top election issues were universal. "The general situation we find ourselves in as a country - the diplomatic scene, the threat coming from Iran, Hamas in our backyard - the Anglo community isn't any different in regards to these matters." In an attempt to attract young immigrants, the Labor Party held an event called "Beer and Politics" at a pub in Tel Aviv, featuring MK Isaac Herzog. Kadima organized a meeting last week for a small group of Anglo campaign volunteers with candidates Prof. Uriel Reichman and Yohanan Plessner. Other parties have reached out primarily through parlor meetings or at places of work or worship. It is unlikely that Anglo immigrants' votes will lead to any one party's success, but it's clear that these voters should not be overlooked.

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