South Jerusalem is not a good place to draw conclusions about trends throughout the city. This morning I disconcerted a Channel 10 crew looking for typical voters to interview when I told them I’d voted for Barkat and Meretz.
“But you’re wearing a kipah!” said the puzzled, well-dressed newsman, a Tel Aviv yuppie who’d been sent to cover those quaint, benighted Jews up in the mountains.
“Yes, but this is South Jerusalem,” I said.
The streets were lively today and when I went with my daughter to vote at mid-morning, the polling place was busy, even though these were work hours. It was a sharp contrast to the previous two municipal elections, five and ten years ago respectively, when turnout in this area was woefully low. Despite the fact that many people feel, as I do, that both major candidates are far from ideal, the battle between them seems to have galvanized voters.
The fact that Barkat and Porush have lots of teenagers handing out leaflets and putting up posters is not surprising, given the money they have at their disposal. (When I was a teenager in the U.S., we did this for free because we believed in the candidates—here kids get paid by the hour, so they may or may not really care about the party they are championing.) But some of the smaller lists, notably Hitorerut Yerushalmim, are impressively present around the polling places and on the street. Presumably most of these people are volunteers.
Ynet says that the Interior Ministry reports a 21 percent turnout in Jerusalem as of 6 p.m., but doesn’t say what the comparable figure was last time.
Based on the anecdotal evidence at my disposal from my day here in the southern part of the city, Barkat is not picking up many votes in the right-wing national-religious/knitted kipa community. But he has turned many of the left-wingers in the neighborhood against him. If all his talk of building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem was a ploy to get right-wing national-religious votes, on the assumption that the left would vote for him anyway, it seems to have backfired. I suspect he lost more votes than he gained.