Elections: How will Jerusalemites vote? - watch

Many voiced support for Netanyahu, but there were almost as many of those who were undecided or vowed not to vote at all. Find out what the average Jerusalemite really thinks.

How Jerusalemites Vote
On a cold, rainy day last week, my colleague, photographer Marc Israel Sellem and I traversed the rain-slicked Jerusalem streets in search of diverse opinionated Israelis.
With winter coats buttoned tight, we headed toward the famous Mahaneh Yehuda market where the inclement weather that blustery Sunday afternoon made for thin crowds.
We encountered and approached many of the shuk regulars. A woman collecting spare change for charity declined to go on camera but with a smile said that she would advocate voting for God, as only God is in control of the world. A man who sells small products on the street said he doesn’t vote and never talks politics, but wished us luck finding people willing to share their views.
The three questions we asked were:
•  Who are you voting for?
•  Who did you vote for last time?
• Who do you think is best suited to deal with the situation in the South? (Just days before, Israeli communities near Gaza were bombarded by rockets and incendiary balloons and kites.)
The majority of people we spoke with declined to be interviewed – including a group of Americans who were employed by the US government and stated they were not allowed to comment on political matters. A group of newly inducted IDF soldiers from abroad also declined, citing regulations.
INTERVIEWING PEOPLE in downtown Jerusalem is a fun exercise but not necessarily indicative of the average Israeli voter. Statistics show that Jerusalem traditionally votes for the Likud and religious parties in much greater proportions that Israel’s two other largest cities, Tel Aviv and Haifa, where in Israel’s previous election, the Zionist Union Party of Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog was more popular. Still, it is worth noting that the Likud carried eight of the 10 largest cities in the country in 2015.
Our interview excursion was also an exercise in Jerusalem demographics, as Sellem, ever the keen-eyed professional, expertly predicted which passersby would be English speakers, which were tourists, Russian, French speakers and which would be unwilling to speak to a journalist. He also pointed out that although we aimed for a mix of men and women, some religious women would be hesitant to go on camera.
One individual with a long black coat and long beard declined to be interviewed, but stated he was voting for “Gimmel,” the ballot letter assigned to the United Torah Judaism Party. In the 2015 elections, UTJ gained the support of 21.11% of the Jerusalem electorate, second only to the Likud, while in the country as a whole, UTJ was chosen by just under 5% of the voters. 
AND NOW for the results of our survey. The two leading answers we received from our unofficial man-on-the-chilly-street poll two weeks before the election were:
1) In first place was support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, often referred to by his nickname Bibi.
2) In second place were the undecideds, those that either didn’t know or vowed not to vote at all.
Perhaps some who are unwilling to express a view are reluctant to get into heated political arguments and alienate friends and family members with different opinions.
Diverging opinions need not be divisive, however. At a restaurant recently, a group of seven or eight friends discussing the election discovered that every person at the table was voting for a different party. Then they all sat down to enjoy their meal together.
“I am voting for the Likud and for Bibi.” Why? “Because the Prime Minister is the best, that’s why. Bibi knows what to do. I trust him.”
She is voting for Bibi Netanyahu as she did in the past. As for the situation in the South, “It’s problematic. Maybe [New Right chairman Naftali] Bennett can be a good fit.”
“I am not going to vote because everyone is a liar. None of them are honorable. I voted for the Likud last time. This time the Likud is not trustworthy. Bibi has been weakened. I don’t think that the one on the Left that’s running against him is any better. We have a problem of lack of leadership in our country. I miss Menachem Begin and the 1980s. He was one of the best leaders we had – he and Yitzhak Shamir. If you’re smart you’ll put in a “white slip.” Anyone can solve the situation in the South, anyone except Netanyahu, who can’t even solve his own problems.”
“I only vote for Netanyahu. There is no one better than him.” As for the situation in the South, he states, “I think for that, only Bennett. If Bennett comes into the government now, this time they can solve this problem once and for all.”
“I am going to vote for the Bayit Yehudi and party leader [Rafi] Peretz. I made aliyah only recently. During the last election I wasn’t living in Israel yet.” And the situation in the South? “I think Bibi can solve it best. He’s going to take care of it.”
A Vizhnitz hassid, he is voting for Agudat Yisrael [running with United Torah Judaism] as he has in the past. As for the situation in the South, he feels Netanyahu is best suited to deal with the problem.
“The best for the State of Israel is Netanyahu. He the only one that has a special grace. He talks without stuttering and even Arab leaders, he knows them and they want to make peace with Israel. So all the embassies that are opening and will open, it’s all because of him. The media, the court cases, the attorney general, for years they have been going after him. Netanyahu cannot [deal with the South] by himself. He needs strong “hawks” by his side to form a strong government. Ever since Menachem Begin, I voted Likud."
“If I vote, I don’t know yet. I’m still undecided. My friends think that Netanyahu is the best qualified, but personally I haven’t decided.”
“Elections in Israel are much shorter and much easier than in America. Just like our last elections being extremely critical, I think the Israeli election is very much the same. We’ve been looking for peace for decades. It’s going to be a challenge for any American president, regardless of whether it’s [President Donald] Trump or someone at a later time to find a final negotiated peace.”
Shmuel Lazer
“I don’t vote at all. When I first moved here, I was in yeshiva and I didn’t want to vote but I voted for the person the rabbi told me to vote for. He turned out to be a crook. I wasn’t born here and I don’t feel comfortable voting.”