Israelis head for elections, once again, with less feeling

So they vote. This time not happily, not with great enthusiasm, not eagerly, but they vote.

David Kufeld (photo credit: Courtesy)
David Kufeld
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Armed with their signature cynicism and decidedly low expectations, the people of Israel flocked back to the polls on Monday for the third time in 11 months.
They grumbled, they mumbled and they complained. They voted before a family outing and after shopping at the mall; they voted after breakfast and before dinner. Once again, they schlepped babies in carriages, and brought along small children on their way to an excursion.
They kvetched, but they voted. And they came out in numbers that put other countries – such as the US, which hasn’t had more than 60% of the population vote in a presidential election since 1968 – to shame.
Why? Because the bottom line is that most people here do care – despite all the cynicism – who governs the land, even though they might loudly declare that they don’t really care, that all the politicians are the same, and that it doesn’t matter who forms the government.
And they voted because most people want their voice to be heard.
It’s a small country, Israel. Decisions made at the top are felt intimately by people below. For instance, whether to attack in the Gaza Strip and send ground troops there, whether to uproot an illegal outpost in Samaria and whether to extract gas from the ocean floor and process it near the Haifa coast. People want to have some kind of minimal impact on how those decisions will be made, as those decisions may impact them in a very personal and immediate way.
So they vote. This time not happily, not with great enthusiasm, not eagerly, but they vote.
Although much has been written about how these back-to-back-to-back elections are chipping away at the belief of Israelis in the system, the fact that well over two-thirds of the people continue to vote here election after election shows that – deep down – they still believe in the process. Otherwise they would not participate. People vote if they care. And most people in this country do care.
Which doesn’t mean that things didn’t feel a bit different this time in the country’s polling places – they did. The conversation and jokes among those waiting in lines were different than in the past.
First, there were the jokes and conversations about the coronavirus. “The special places for people quarantined to vote won’t help, since all the voting slips are contaminated,” one man quipped at a polling place outside of Jerusalem. Another noted that the son of someone in quarantine was waiting in line, and said to take cover if he sneezes.
But most of the chatter had to do with the seemingly endless election loop.
“Here we go again,” one woman said to a neighbor standing in line. “Yes,” the neighbor replied, adding sardonically – in reference to the possibility of a fourth round of voting in a few months’ time – “See you back here in September.”