Bike-riding volunteers make final push for Greens

green party 88 (photo credit: )
green party 88
(photo credit: )
In the basement of a non-descript building on an undistinguished street not far from Tel Aviv's central bus station lies the Green Movement-Meimad's Tel Aviv headquarters. There are some bikes in the entryway, as befits a green party, including a volunteer's unique solar-powered bike which he had plastered with campaign posters. The offices are just this side of dingy and the air circulation is poor. It looks like what it is - the headquarters of a grassroots party which began its run for the Knesset a mere two months ago. Headquarters was pretty quiet on Monday, a day before the elections. Most of the party's staff are volunteers and they were either out on the streets or still at work in the afternoon. The coordinators staffing headquarters were doing what they've been doing throughout the campaign - recruiting, organizing and sending out the party's volunteers to hand out campaign materials. Staff and volunteers were busy recruiting other volunteers for Election Day, e-mailing their friends to vote for the party, or contacting everyone they knew on Facebook and urging them to come out and vote "Heh" (the party's election symbol). The party has made full use of the Internet and its communication cabilities. E-mails, Facebook groups, blogs, Youtube videos and more have multiplied in recent weeks. At the same time there was a sense of suppressed urgency and a relaxed atmosphere that comes from an organization which relies on volunteers, who have given up their free time to chip in. Many were cautiously optimistic, saying they didn't know what to expect on Tuesday, but that they were hopeful. Volunteers cheerfully came in and out, willing to make that last run to Ramat Gan or that last circuit around Tel Aviv to stuff mailboxes. Even No. 3 on the list - North Carolina-born Alon Tal - had hit the streets himself on Monday, handing out the party's unique card-sized flyers at environmental organizations until being ousted from the various buildings. The party has focused on a grassroots word-of-mouth campaign, Nir Hirshman, spokesman for party No. 1 Rabbi Michael Melchior, who became the campaign's spokesman as well, told the Post. "When people receive a card from our volunteers on the street, they get more than a flyer, they get that there's a sense of purpose," he said. "We don't have hired teenagers handing out pamphlets, just our volunteers." Coming in to headquarters to do a round of phone calls, Tal said he was hopeful and optimistic. He noted that Anglos had a respectful place in the party, but that it was also a very Israeli party, from many walks of life. "We started a year ago at a meeting at Seminar Hakibbutzim with 30 or 40 people. We eventually moved to the basement of Cafe Joe's and now, look where we are. "The results will depend on how many people come out, what the weather is like, and whether the younger people come out. Is there really a buzz, which will get people to vote for us?" he asked rhetorically. Dan Bone, one of the coordinators of the student sector and now an all-purpose volunteer coordinator, said it was hard to tell how well the party would do, but he had begun to hear things that made him think the message was getting out. "I'm beginning to hear echoes and reverberations of support from people I would not have expected to be supportive," he said. The party also recently received endorsements from a number of celebrities, including Ehud Banai, Avri Gilad, Jackie Levy, Ricki Bleich, Shai Avivi and Shlomo Bar. "Many of the celebrities had endorsed the party of their own accord," Hirshman said, "and I only found out about it afterwards." On Election Day, several of the candidates will be in Jerusalem making a round of voting booths. Melchior will be spending the day with his family, away from the media spotlight. Tal said he would be in his hometown of Modi'in. "Modi'in is like a village and I am going to be outside the polling booth talking to people, doing an 'I want to be your congressman,'" he said as he walked to the back room to start another round of phone calls.