As much as Tel Aviv is known for its openness and pluralism, that diversity hasn’t exactly extended to the political arena, where a comfortable majority of residents are known to vote for centrist and left-wing parties bent on dethroning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the election just five months ago, over 67 percent of voters in the country’s second-largest metropolis threw their support behind such factions.
Those demographics were on full display at Tel Aviv’s beaches during the early hours of Tuesday’s national vote.
At what is commonly known as the “dog beach” in northern Tel Aviv, several teen activists from the centrist Blue and White party walked up to a pair of potential voters washing off their furry friends after a sandy game of fetch. “We’re with you, we’re with you,” the canine owners said before the canvassers could even get a word out.
“Hopefully your friends are as well!” one of the activists responded.
“Bro, you’re in Tel Aviv. You think that people here want another four years of Bibi?” the young man in his late 20s cracked, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname, as he sprayed his barking Labrador.
The remark would be music to the ears of Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White party has expressed concern over possible low turnout in the city viewed as crucial to its victory.
Senior Blue and White officials told Hebrew media on Monday that a 70% turnout rate in Tel Aviv would likely grant them an extra seat — possibly a deciding factor in a closely fought election. Sixty-three percent of the 426,398 eligible residents cast ballots in April, down on the national average of 68.5%.
Tuesday is women’s day at the “Haredi beach” just north of the dog beach and this reporter was unable to enter the confines, but outside the gate stood two mothers with strollers, who were looking forward to catching some sun before heading to back to the nearby town of Givat Shmuel to vote for the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.
“We know we’re not exactly the norm in this place, but to tell you the truth, I’m glad there are people who vote for the left,” said one of the young mothers who asked to only be identified as Malka. “I wouldn’t want to live here, but these leftist cities are sure nice to visit.”
The Hilton beach, just two beaches down, is known as a go-to spot for local and international gay bathers. At 9:30 a.m., it is still largely empty, as hungover party-goers were still crawling out of bed on their day off from work.
But one individual who had already found himself a spot in the sand was Ofir, who was doing a bit of yoga while the sun remained low.
“I’m not so into politics but I think I’m going to vote for Blue and White,” he said, looking visibly annoyed at having been disturbed in the middle of a downward-facing dog pose.
Further down Hilton Beach, a young couple in their 20s were unrolling their towels on the municipality’s orange beach chairs. Carmel and Elbaz joked that they’re “the only right-wingers within a few good kilometers.” He planned to vote for Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina party while she was going to vote Likud.
“Walla, bro, things aren’t so bad here,” shrugs Elbaz. “I think this time they’ll end up having a unity government but I doubt that’ll change much,” he said.
As they slathered their two toddler sons with suntan lotion at Mezizim Beach, Shira and Doron admitted that they hadn’t yet decided for whom to cast their ballots.
“It’s between Blue and White and Meretz [Democratic Camp], but in the end it’ll be up to Uri,” says the young mother pointing at her youngest son having sunscreen applied by his father and holding a bag of peanut butter snacks.
Giddy with excitement, and with suntan lotion still not rubbed in on most of his face, Uri shouted “Gantz!”
Further down the beach, the answers from bathers were largely homogeneous. Several dozen Blue and White voters with a handful of outliers who planned to vote for Likud, Democratic Camp, Yamina, or Joint List.
At Frishman Beach, the Geula family from Nes Ziona sat around a plastic table just after having downed shots of Arak.
“Vacation day, no?” says a buzzed Shai. His wife, two brothers and sisters-in-law made the trip to the beach on the day of the April election as well.
The Geulas were divided by gender over who they were voting for, with the men supporting Netanyahu’s Likud and the women planning to vote for Blue and White later today.
“They pretend that it’s a gender thing, but look, there are no women at the top of Gantz’s list,” said Shai.
“There are barely any women on Bibi’s list either. Just [Culture Minister] Miri Regev, and she’s nuts!” his wife, who is also named Miri, retorted.
Nearby sat 57-year-old Yuval, a longtime Tel Aviv resident who said he was still debating between the Democratic Camp and the Joint List.
Yuval explained that he has long voted for Meretz — the left-wing party that merged with Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party to form the Democratic Camp — but is leaning toward casting his ballot for an Arab Israeli party this time around.
“It [the Joint List] is the only party that talks about the occupation. Even Meretz didn’t do that this time,” he lamented in reference to the Democratic Camp campaign’s emphasis on opposing religious coercion rather than ob the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Plus, Bibi’s rhetoric toward the Arabs has gotten out of control, so I think their party deserves my vote,” the shirtless sunbather said from his orange beach chair.
Responding to the criticism that Tel Aviv residents live in a bubble out of touch with the rest of Israeli society, Yuval was dismissive. “Just because someone lives in a bubble doesn’t mean they don’t have a brain.”
By 11 a.m. Gordon beach was beginning to pack with people. Among them were members of the Shaul family who in between puffs of cigarettes said they were voting for Blue and White.
“And it’s not exactly out of love for Gantz,” clarified one of the three middle-aged sisters. “But enough, this country can’t handle another term of Bibi.”
An older man overhearing the conversation from his beach chair behind them smiled and shook his head.
“Could you be any more out of touch?” charged the middle-aged man from the nearby city of Holon.
“So many of the country’s contributions come from Tel Aviv, but our political views are invalid?” responded Talia Shaul.
“Valid or invalid, most of the country doesn’t agree with you,” the Holon man replied.
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Talia shouted back over her shoulder and the sides returned to their figurative corners.