MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS 2013: Poll positions

‘Metro’ takes the country’s pulse on election day. Next week we’ll take a look at the results.

Shas activists set up a shop (photo credit: Miriam Kresh)
Shas activists set up a shop
(photo credit: Miriam Kresh)
Walking to the polling station in Tel Aviv to vote in the local elections on Tuesday morning, it felt like any other day in the city that never sleeps.
The streets of Tel Aviv were not awash with signs, banners and activists trying to sway the public’s vote. Instead, residents sat in their regular coffee shops, walked their dogs and enjoyed the sunshine of the bright fall morning.
It was only upon arriving at the school where my polling station was located that it actually felt as if any kind of election was taking place. A few drab campaign posters were hung on the gates, and a lone activist from a small party tried in vain to grab the attention of the trickle of people who went to vote.
It seemed as if the good people of Tel Aviv were more concerned about where they would buy their next cup of coffee than who would be running their city for the next five years.
Since at press time, it looked as if no revolution was about to take place and the city was looking forward to another five years of Mayor Ron Huldai – despite challenger MK Nitzan Horowitz’s best efforts – the residents’ apathy was not surprising.By Yoni Cohen
The municipal elections were in full swing under the midday sun in my largely religious neighborhood in Petah Tikva. A festive, almost carnival, atmosphere pervaded.
Banners displaying candidates’ faces festooned the streets. Youngsters and oldsters wearing the T-shirts of their parties approached and tried to put their voting slips into people’s hands. The closer you got to the voting stations, the noisier it became.
The Shas booth, still relying on the powerful pull of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, offered voters a memorial candle to light in his memory – a gimmick to engage the religious voter’s emotions.
United Torah Judaism’s van, plastered with brochures, circulated and broadcast ear-splitting propaganda. A few minutes of that, and you got the distinct feeling that God wanted you to vote their way.
The Beyahad party, apparently thousands strong, tried to convince you that it was not a political party; it aimed to promote unity in the population.
“We don’t need such big egos; we need to relate to a higher power,” one of the women at its information booth said. “We need to think less about taking and more about giving, giving, giving.” Their charismatic leader is very overt about his followers’ obligation to give.
And there was Bnei Zahavi, an organization concerned with grassroots social issues such as helping parents of large families obtain discounts on their arnona (property tax), organizing food packages for the needy, and even making sure that schoolchildren from low-income families have backpacks for the school year.
“Our slogan is Torah, education and hessed,” said their representative.
Altogether, it seemed like the parties were addressing a nice balance of spiritual and material needs. Demands for better public transportation go hand-in-hand with demands for better classroom conditions. The need for affordable after-school activities waits on people getting together under a higher power.
 By  Miriam Kresh
Binyamina, known for its winery and railway station and as the birthplace of late songwriter Ehud Manor and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, merged with Givat Ada in 2003, expanding the population of this rural dormitory town to around 12,000.
The main contenders for council head were Ram Fein (Likud) and Pinhas “Pinky” Zuaretz (Yesh Atid). Haim Shimoni (Labor) and the Greens trailed far behind in the minds of the local electorate.
Shosh, sporting the green T-shirt of a Fein supporter, believed her candidate would do whatever is necessary to improve Binyamina.
“I trust him to clean up the filth in the streets.
It’s disgusting. Ram Fein was born here; he’ll do what’s necessary,” she said.
Her reference to Fein’s native origins was not made idly. Fein’s main opponent, Pinky, has lived in Binyamina for only 14 years, two of which he spent in the United States. But according to Yaron, Pinky, a former commander of the Southern Brigade, is a bulldozer who’ll clean up the streets and rid the town of municipal corruption.
A moment of light relief during the morning came when a supporter of the Labor ticket turned out to be the daughter of the Labor contender, Shimoni.
“My father will separate Binyamina from Givat Ada,” she proclaimed.
The question of a unified Binyamina and Givat Ada did not appear to be an issue with any of the more mature residents I spoke to. Most people who chose to vote in Binyamina were looking to their respective candidates to clean up the streets, invest in education, create parks and expand the town’s sporting and cultural activities.
“Why can’t Binyamina be like Zichron?” asked a local businessman. “Clean up the quarry and build parks, hotels, a pedestrian mall. Create attractions for tourists without losing any of the rural character of the place.”
As a voter myself, I hoped that whichever candidate won, the posters, burst balloons and other electioneering detritus that were strewn all over the streets would be swept away by evening with the proverbial new broom.
 By Patricia Carmel
 All three of Ra’anana’s mayoral candidates made sure to appeal to the Anglo community in this city of nearly 70,000 people, a significant portion of whom are English-speakers.
Ze’ev Bielski, who served as mayor for 17 years before leaving to head the Jewish Agency in 2005, hoped to beat incumbent Nahum Hofree and hopeful Eitan Glick and serve a fifth term in the city. “All of my environment is Englishspeaking.
All my life I was dealing with aliya,” he told Metro in an interview last month.
Bielski’s candidacy drew interest to what is usually an uneventful leadership race in a middle-class city.
by Jerusalem Post staff
From left: Yesh Atid Modi’in leader Shahar Mey-On, Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, Bayit Yehudi Modi’in leader Michael Harlap and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach campaign in Modi’in. (Yonah Jeremy Bob)From left: Yesh Atid Modi’in leader Shahar Mey-On, Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, Bayit Yehudi Modi’in leader Michael Harlap and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach campaign in Modi’in. (Yonah Jeremy Bob)
Modi’in was bustling on election day, with around half a dozen parties competing in a wide-open election, in what otherwise would have been a lackluster campaign – due to the dominant reelection position of incumbent Mayor Haim Bibas.
National parties also made their presence known, with both Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach making side-byside appearances with their parties’ local leaders, Shahar Mey-On (Yesh Atid) and Michael Harlap (Bayit Yehudi).
Harlap was the most optimistic, predicting the winning of “three seats or more.”
Mey-On said he was hoping for two or three, and declared that while Modi’in was ”full of beautiful parks and flowers,” his party could “strengthen its soul.”
Lipman remarked that while Bayit Yehudi was strong, he believed Yesh Atid’s national message of “balance” among all sectors of society would prove successful.
Volunteers for the list running under Bibas’s banner and Bayit Yehudi were comprised mainly of teenagers biking around, holding up signs and otherwise stumping for their parties.
But besides being sure that Bibas would get reelected, some of his volunteers were less than optimistic about the chances of his city council list.
By Yonah Jeremy Bob
Ramat Beit Shemesh was a strange mix of calm and clamor on election day. While the perennial Atra Kadisha protesters showed up at the Goloventzitz building site in Ramat Beit Shemesh to protest against the alleged desecration of graves, they did not riot, set fires or throw stones as they have done in previous altercations, and much of the city seemed unaware that the extremists had broken into the contested site again.
Signs exhorting haredim to maintain separate voting hours for men and women for the sake of “holiness” seemed to be ignored by residents, who declined to rearrange their schedules to fit arbitrary rules imposed by extremists.
The anger and tension that have built up in the city were evidenced in the vitriolic flyers littering the streets. Signs bearing the face of the original Bayit Yehudi candidate Aliza Bloch (who was replaced by mayoral contender Eli Cohen) and a slogan stating “Never forget, never forgive” were plastered all around the national-religious neighborhoods of the city. The Cohen campaign accused Mayor Moshe Abutbul of seeking to foment discord among his opponents.
While the city seemed quiet, there was tension beneath the apparent calm, and the deep animosities engendered by the tight race remain.
By Sam Sokol
 During the early hours of the day in Ma’aleh Adumim, local municipal elections were calm and quiet, particularly compared to the previous days’ flurry of annoying phone calls from candidates and parties. Streets and walls of apartment buildings bore evidence of the days’ events with banners and posters, but far fewer were displayed than in previous elections.
Aside from the sidewalk in front of my polling station, I saw no scattered voting slips. By late afternoon or evening that would presumably have changed.
A jingle with a brisk refrain blasted over poor-quality speakers, drowning out any attempt at casual banter between party representatives and voters. Had I been deliberating over my choices, that jarring blast would have provided some clarity.
Neighbors greeted one another, acknowledging having completed or being about to complete civic privilege, subtly peppering small talk with opinion. “May the best woman win,” one quipped, making her choice charmingly obvious, as the only challenger to incumbent Mayor Benny Kashriel is Gaby Bar-Zakai, a woman.
Voting was efficient, calm and pleasant in the early hours of the day. By evening, it would have been a much livelier scene, if past elections are any indicator.
By Debi Rubin
A city council candidate in the Lod municipal elections was shot and seriously wounded on Monday night by a masked gunman while he was holding a meeting with prospective voters at a house in the center of the troubled city.
On Tuesday, attorney Abed Azberga, head of the Lod parents’ committee and No. 2 on the Ah-Nida Al-Arabi party list, was still in serious condition at Assaf Harofeh hospital, suffering from a single gunshot wound to the stomach.
While police said they were still trying to determine the motive for the shooting, relatives of Azberga told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday they believed it was directly related to the elections and pointed an accusing finger at mayoral candidate Yoram Marciano, who they said was inciting people against Azberga.
Marciano has denied making inflammatory statements against Azberga and said that he had nothing to do with the shooting and wished him a speedy recovery.
By Ben Hartman
A Kafr Kasim polling station. (Ariel Ben Solomon)A Kafr Kasim polling station. (Ariel Ben Solomon)
For Israeli Arabs, municipal elections, as opposed to Knesset polls, are the main event. The atmosphere in Arab towns and villages is like a holiday, as families encourage their members to come out and vote for their chosen candidates and people congregate in the streets and outside the polling booths.
In the Muslim city of Kafr Kasim, located on a hill east of Tel Aviv, just inside the Green Line, there was a festive atmosphere in the streets, with food stands selling their wares to passersby. At one polling station, people congregated outside and within the building with what seemed to be a security guard wearing a red shirt controlling each door.
Inside the voting room there was quite a crowd and a lot of commotion just out side the door as people slipped in and out of the room.
Adel Badir, one of three candidates for mayor told Metro that the Badir family is one of seven strong families in the city, which include: Badir, Sarsour, Issa, Taha, Amr, Frej and Beduin.
Current mayor Nadir Sarsour and a third candidate, Sami Issa, are also vying for the mayoralty.
In interviews with residents, Metro was assured that despite the competition between families, afterwards all would remain friends.
One man said that his mother is a Badir and his father from the Issa family, but that he chose to vote for Adel Badir because he felt he was the better candidate.
By Ariel Ben Solomon