Religious-Zionists vote in Habayit Hayehudi primary

Orlev, Bennett battle for party leadership; official results to be announced Wednesday; less than half of party members vote; Bennett supporters report irregularities.

Naftali Bennett, Zevulun Orlev 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Naftali Bennett, Zevulun Orlev 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Head-scarf wearing women and kippah-clad men, many with small children in tow, stood in line outside the Habayit Hayehudi polling place at a youth center in the religious-Zionist stronghold of Givat Shmuel, ready to choose between veteran MK Zevulun Orlev or former Yesha Council chairman Naftali Bennett.
Nearly half of Habayit Hayehudi's 53,875 members voted, according to a party source, in 168 ballots spread throughout Israel by the time polls closed at 10 p.m.
Official results will be announced at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Bennett was showing a major lead in the first 50 ballots counted. However, no big cities were included in the count so it remained inconclusive.
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Bennett and Orlev voted in their respective hometowns of Ra'anana and Jerusalem. At 9 p.m., Bennett requested an extension for the vote, citing irregularities in several polling places, but was denied by the Central Election Committee half an hour later.
Zvika Klein, a Bennett supporter, lives in Jerusalem, but was told at the poll that he was supposed to vote in Pardes Chana, though he's never been there. Many yeshiva students and National Service volunteers complained of similar situations on Tuesday.
When Klein reached the polling place in Katamon, one of 16 in Jerusalem, and found almost 100 people ahead of him on line.
"The wait was about an hour long, and a lot of people left, though three stubborn grandmas stuck it out," he quipped. "One member of the polling place staff let his landlord vote even though she was registered somewhere else, because he didn't want her to raise his rent."
In Givat Shmuel, about a dozen Habayit Hayehudi members waiting to vote in the early evening presented arguments for each candidate.
Two men in their thirties without kippot said they were supporting Orlev.
Shimon Cohen, a Givat Shmuel native, said he is traditional and joined Habayit Hayehudi during this year's membership drive "for religious reasons."
"Orlev is a great leader, and a good, trustworthy person," Cohen stated.
Outside of the youth center, a group of four teenagers – who made sure to clarify they are over 17, the minimum age to vote in the primary – handed out pamphlets at a table adorned with Bennett banners.
"Bennett is the bomb," Noam Weiss, 18, from Elad said. "He will unite the nation. He's young, has new ideas and will bring change."
According to Weiss and his friends who cheered him on, Bennett would bring respect back to the religious-Zionist demographic.
The teens excitedly described meeting Bennett earlier in the day when he visited the Givat Shmuel polls, calling him a true leader.
Meanwhile, Shuli Mualem, who is running for the party list, stood in the Givat Shmuel youth center's courtyard, reminding voters that they can elect the rest of the party's candidates in one week.
She expressed hope that the crowds would reappear when the time came to vote for her.