An American votes in Israel

Polling stations in Israel are nothing like the quiet, neutral polls of New York. With activists screaming and flyers tossed about, Israeli polls are an epicenter of local culture.

Activists outside of a polling station at Gabrieli Carmel School in Tel Aviv (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
Activists outside of a polling station at Gabrieli Carmel School in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
This morning I, like many Israelis across the country, went to the polls in the hopes of choosing the next prime minister of Israel... sort of. In Israel, unlike in the US, citizens vote for parties, not individual candidates – and hope that the party they choose gets the most amount of seats in the new government.
This is the first election I've voted in as an Israeli civilian. Voting on base as a soldier, which I did in April, had a different feel to it entirely. First of all, I was at a seminar for lone soldiers, who are IDF soldiers with no immediate family in Israel supporting them. The soldiers were voting with a different purpose and were enthusiastic about voting in what for many of them was their new home.
The polling station at the base didn't prepare me for the civilian one, which was unlike anything I saw in the US. Before I could vote I would accompany my parents to the local elementary school where the polling station was quiet, and everyone who was there voted and left. Similarly, in the Tel Aviv polling station there were several families with young children who voted together. Each child smiled as they placed their parents' votes in the ballot box.
In Tel Aviv, approaching the polling station was a daunting task. As soon as I walked to the playground in front of the school, I was bombarded with flyers and activists all trying to persuade me to vote for their party. What was astonishing about the activists wasn't their persistence, it was their age. In the US, voter passion isn't usually associated with teenagers, especially those who are too young to vote. The activists at my polling station were teenagers, some of whom weren't of voting age.
The most vocal of them were supporting the Blue and White Party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, and the Likud led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While they stood waiting for people who they could try and persuade at the last minute, they began debating each other, mainly about security issues.
Israel's emphasis on the importance of voting is likely the source of their enthusiasm and desire to participate in the democratic process. Election Day is a national holiday in Israel and public transportation is free for the day in order to give everyone a way to vote without missing work or budgeting bus fare.