Emotion and excitement for first-time voters

‘Voting for the first time made me feel truly Israeli,’ said several new immigrants.

Chaim Zalman Hutz votes in Jerusalem for the first time. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chaim Zalman Hutz votes in Jerusalem for the first time.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As Israelis head to the polls for the second time this year, first-time voters shared their excitement as they were given a chance to play their part in the country’s vibrant democratic process.
The Jerusalem Post spent the day speaking to first-time voters, from new olim to 18-year-olds who were underage in April’s election, as well as a few young adults who just weren’t interested in voting previously.
“Voting for the first time felt really good,” 20-year-old Gadi Zaig, who voted in Jerusalem, told the Post. “It means a lot to me to formally exercise my right. I only chose to vote now because it was only a few months ago that I had started to get into Israeli politics. I had only been up-to-date with American politics.”
Zaig stressed that it was important for her to vote in this election “because everyone’s voices and opinions should be heard, and by voting we can choose which party we believe will push Israel in the correct direction.”
On those who were still on the fence about voting and who to vote for, Zaig said that people need to “keep up with the ideologies of each party if they’re not sure. Do research, and make a small list of parties that you can sympathize with.” The country, he said, “would improve more if we are just more accepting of each other.”
Hannah Sharron, a new immigrant from London, voted in Modi’in.
“Voting today felt a bit surreal,” she said, “It’s a huge privilege to get to play a small part in shaping the Jewish state, which is something my grandparents barely dared to dream of doing. That said, the run-up to today was definitely overwhelming. I came from England, where between antisemitism and Brexit, it feels like there’s no one left to vote for.
“By contrast, here in Israel there are so many different parties, personalities and options. But even though it’s a challenge, it’s also still great because it’s incredible that we even have a country in which every Jew can have their voice heard.”
She said that it is important to vote and be part of the democratic process “because Israel is still a young country and still a work in progress. There’s still so much we are yet to achieve – especially in terms of living up to our own ideals and wishes for ourselves – and the best way to achieve that is by making sure our representatives know what we want.”
In her message to those who were not sure about voting, Sharron said that we must “remember where we have come from, and consider where you want us to go. We have a history of being disenfranchised and excluded from society. Voting today is a statement that here we have our own home, and we will never be silenced or give up our autonomy here.”
While she voted hoping that politicians will improve society, Sharron said that her expectations for the next prime minister are low.
“Whoever wins this election, the leaders are jaded,” Sharron said. “Many of the big players have been around for a long time and they are concerned more with their own egos than progress for the people of Israel.”
Sharron said that Israel does need new leaders, “and we should look to the next generation – those who are rising up in local government and as grassroots activists – and give them opportunities to step up to the national level.”
For Carolyn Croft, a new immigrant from Florida, voting for the first time “was extremely emotional. I feel so blessed to be able to live in a Jewish nation, and take part in choosing our leaders. As a new olah, I felt like I was officially an Israeli now.”
Croft said that she has always been passionate about being a part of the democratic process.
“As a new citizen, I feel honored to be able to take part in this important process,” she said. “It is an honor and a privilege I do not take for granted. Many have sacrificed their lives in order for us Jews to live free in our indigenous homeland.”
Tzofia Fuld from Karmei Tzur, who turned 18 in May, said she felt like she dodged a bullet by missing April’s election.
“I’m sure you can imagine my surprise hearing about the second one [election],” she said. “I felt lucky turning 18 after the [April] election for a few reasons. Politics is not one of my favorite topics, so until now, I really didn’t put much thought and effort into it.
“It’s a very messy subject, and politicians usually don’t stand by their promises, so I try to stay away. Second of all, since my 18th birthday did not bring with it the gift of true wisdom, I do not feel much difference from when I was 17-and-a-half, so with me coming of age, I was a little startled by the influence I might bring.”
Despite this, Fuld said, “voting is the beginning of an era, as I become a young adult who can influence and contribute to the country that has given me so much.”
Fuld said that she is beyond nervous at the thought that Israel could hold elections for a third time if a government is unable to emerge after Tuesday.
“I really hope and pray that the candidates will be able to build a government,” she explained. “In the frustrating reality they might not be able to, I hope that citizens will be able to see who is the real problem is in this equation.”
Yossi, who asked not to be fully identified, turned 18 this month and was finally able to have his say in the democratic process.
Although he said he feels he voted correctly, it took him a long time to decide for whom to vote.
“I stared at the party list for about 10 minutes outside before I went into the booth,” he said.
The most important part of voting, Yossi said, was being able to be a “decision maker. Through decision making, I can finally steer the ship of the country and its future for the next four years,” he said, calling on others to go out and vote as well.
“There is no point in a vote happening again and again,” Yossi stressed. “This is your time to show your decision and want you want” for the country.
Chaim Zalman Hutz said that being able to vote for the first time made him feel “truly Israeli. As frustrating as the second election has been for pretty much everybody, it did give me a second chance because the first election was three weeks after my aliyah date, so I wasn’t eligible, but this election I was eligible, so I got to take part in the Israeli political process.”
Hutz said that “We are all here in Israel – Jews coming from all corners of the world trying to build something great and unique in history. The opportunity to have an active voice in that building process is a priceless thing – it’s [something] that most of our ancestors would have given everything they had to have the opportunity to do.”
Hutz said that with the incoming government, he hopes to see major economic improvements so Israelis aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.
“I want to see improvements in housing prices and availability for young families,” he said. “I’d like to see economic opportunities for olim improve, and for olim to be engaged more in the political process, which some of the parties have done this time around.”