On Tuesday in Tel Aviv, the city known affectionately as “The Bubble,” the iconic coffee shops were packed but boots in the polling centers were thin on the ground.
At the corner of Strauss and Mazeh streets in central Tel Aviv, Noa Savir, a 29-year-old volunteer for the Ir L’Kuleinu (“City for All”) party, was busy waving down potential voters straggling into the Balfour School and thrusting pamphlets into their hands.
“I believe in Aaron,” Savir said, referring to Aaron Meduel, the party’s candidate for mayor, who is hoping for a surprise triumph over the two leading candidates, incumbent Ron Huldai (Tel Aviv 1) and MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz). “And this party is the only one fighting for my interests. Everybody else, they have one or two subjects they care about, but this is for everybody. They care about the buildings, they care about adults and children, about women, about everyone.”
Savir, a teacher, had been on the street corner since 8 a.m., positioning her tiny frame in front of passers-by and asking them if they were headed to vote, and if so, if they were familiar with the Ir L’Kuleinu platform. The turnout had been slow so far, she said, but she was optimistic. “People are working right now,” she said with a shrug. “In the evening, there will be more.”
City council candidate Meirav Peled was also angling for a piece of the same street-corner turf, and feeling a bit more optimistic.
“The turnout has been great,” insisted Peled, running for a slot in the Reshimat Horim party, whose platform supports parents raising children in Tel Aviv. “I’m feeling confident. This is the first time that I feel like we’re going to make a big change.”
Over at the Goldstein-Goren center on LaSalle Street, known to many a new immigrant as the site of Ulpan Gordon, the only volunteers to be found amid the bored Hebrew learners taking cigarette breaks in the courtyard were Goni and Noy Ross, 14-year-old twins who, despite being too young to vote themselves, were stumping for Meretz and mayoral hopeful Horowitz outside of the polling place.
“Meretz is the only group that can really make a change, offer a better life in Tel Aviv, a fresh start in Tel Aviv,” the twins said together, jumbling their words into the same sentence.
“Everyone who comes in here, we try to talk to,” said Goni. “We tell them to vote for Nitzan and Meretz. He cares about education and affordable housing.”
“And he will care for Jaffa, too,” said Noy, chiming in.
Despite the lack of excitement at the polling centers, plenty of election-day action was happening online, said Guy Seemann, founder and director of the grassroots movement Kol Oleh, which seeks to educate immigrants to Tel Aviv about party platforms and get them involved at the municipal level. Seemann’s organization started off the morning with an email blast to several hundred Anglo olim in the city, listing the polling times and a link to the Kol Oleh site, where voters could find English-language information on each parties’ platform, directions on how the voting process works, and an explanation of how to find your particular polling site. Voters were also encouraged to upload to Facebook pics of themselves stuffing their ballots in the municipality’s bright blue boxes and give the pictures the hashtag #KolOleh.
“I’ve gotten more than 150 personal emails and messages this morning,” Seemann said. “They started at about 7:30 in the morning.”
Some voters reached out to him with problems, others wanted to know where to upload their pictures, and some, he said, even wanted his advice on whom to vote for. (Seemann insists that Kol Oleh does not endorse any particular candidate, but will help confused voters parse out party platforms.)
On Kol Oleh’s Facebook page, users were being encouraged all day long to “like” voter’s photos as they got uploaded, and by Tuesday afternoon, Seemann said, there had been nearly 7,000 “likes” and comments on the pictures rolling in.
And here’s a novel way to get out the vote: The voter with the most likes on his pic at Kol Oleh’s Facebook page will receive a free drink at the organization’s voting-results party Tuesday night at Tel Aviv’s Club Valium.