Immigrants more likely than sabras to vote in local elections
Immigration and aliyah official says issues olim focus on don't necessarily concern immigration and absorption.
By RUTH EGLASH
The nation's vast immigrant population is more likely to have turned out for Tuesday's local elections than veteran Israelis, according to Michael Ginker, director of immigration and aliyah for the Union of Local Authorities.
Nevertheless, the issues they focused on did not necessarily concern immigration and absorption, Ginker said.
"There are some locations where immigration issues were on the agenda - such as in Ashdod, which is considered the city of new olim, and Haifa, Karmiel and Nazareth Illit, where there are many new immigrants," he said, adding that over the past few months - leading up to the local elections - the ULA invested a substantial sum in a campaign to encourage immigrants to vote.
"Most of our campaigning was in Russian, as that is the bulk of Israel's immigrant community," he explained. "However, I believe that many of the individual candidates in local areas did make efforts to present their platforms in various languages, such as English or French."
Josie Arbel, director of absorption services at the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, said it had also made efforts to help North American immigrants understand party platforms and to encourage those eligible to go out and vote.
"Every local election we hold round-table discussions in English with the candidates," she said, highlighting that such events took place last month in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra'anana and Netanya. "We also explained many of the technical aspects of voting in our newsletters and have been fielding questions from people who are unsure about how or where to vote."
However, according to Arbel, "most of our people don't need to be encouraged, they actually want to go out and exercise their democratic right to vote."
"There is a strong emphasis in the AACI to bring US values to Israel, and that includes making sure that people vote," she said.
According to Ginker, more than 170 of the 1,597 candidates were Russian-speakers and, according to his calculation, six were of Ethiopian descent. Arbel said at least three or four of the candidates were veteran Anglo immigrants who ran for city council or mayoral positions in Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Modi'in and Ra'anana.
"We, of course, could not provide them with any assistance before the elections as we are not allowed to take sides, but whoever was elected either to a mayoral position or to city council will be offered a training course to teach them about working for a public office," he said, adding that the course was open to both new and veteran immigrants: "Anyone who is focused on immigrant issues."
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