Crowds hail ‘king’ Ben Gvir as he tours Sderot market, but not all impressed

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Itamar Ben Gvir poses for selfies with people as he campaigns in Sderot on election day on November 1, 2022 (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Itamar Ben Gvir poses for selfies with people as he campaigns in Sderot on election day on November 1, 2022 (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

“Guys, Ben Gvir is coming!” shouts a man selling produce at the open market in the town of Sderot as word gets out about the impending arrival of the Religious Zionism lawmaker who is campaigning throughout the south on Election Day.

Apparently prepared for the visit, the excited greengrocer pulls out a speaker and microphone from underneath his nectarines and starts playing the campaign jingle for Itamar Ben Gvir’s party.

Several minutes later, the far-right lawmaker’s convoy arrives and is mobbed by several dozen excited shoppers who hug, kiss and take selfies with him.

Ben Gvir is passed the microphone and shouts, “We’re here to tell our enemies who’s master of the house!”

Asked whether he senses a difference between this election and the previous one when Religious Zionism won seven seats, Ben Gvir responds:  “You feel the level of support this time.”

“I don’t know how it’ll end, but you really feel it,” he adds.

“With 17 seats,” shouts a man selling grapes, to which Ben Gvir responds, “God willing.”

Back on the microphone as he marched through the market, Ben Gvir declares, “It’s time to return security to the Negev.”

Itamar Ben Gvir campaigns in Sderot on election day on November , 2022 (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

But not everyone embraced him.

“What about Sderot,” mutters a seller, among those who did not leave their posts to surround Ben Gvir.

The man, who identified only as Eli, says he’s voting Likud. “What does that man have to do with me?”

Likud won 40% of votes in Sderot, a poor town near the Gaza border, in the last election, almost four times more than any other party.

Undeterred, Ben Gvir began holding court behind one of the fruit stands, shouting, “Guys! Tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon and pineapple. A full-on right-wing government!”

“Take a picture of me with our king,” says one shopper, passing his phone to a neighbor so he could snap a photo with the lawmaker aiming to be the next public security minister.

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