With elections to Israel’s Knesset slated for January 22, one cannot help but notice the political buzz around the country. According to some, these elections are counted as the most important in the state’s history, with sharp divisions between many of the candidates and parties on what is the best way forward for Israel at this critical juncture.
Domestic, foreign, social, and cultural issues are on the minds of candidates and voters alike. Not knowing why to vote and what issues are most pressing can greatly influence the outcome of the election and the future of the state.
Luckily for voters, OneVoice Israel (OVI) is setting the record straight. Since the end of December, OVI’s “traveling ballot” campaign made stops at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan (Dec. 25-26), Sapir College in Sderot (Dec. 26), IDC-Herzliya (Dec. 30-31 and Jan.8), Hebrew University and Jerusalem (Jan. 2, 4, and 7-9), and many other cities and campuses.
The campaign is an effort to talk about the current issues and educate students and community members about what can help mitigate Israel’s problems. The message behind the campaign is simple – every issue, be it security, socio-economic, the national character of Israel, and others – is tied to the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Ever since the forefathers of the state declared independence in 1948, the issue of peace was on the agenda,” said Tal Harris, executive director of OVI. “For the first time it seems that the elections are about a lot of other issues – social justice, security, and others. Peace is left out of the agenda for most parties.”
“In a context in which more than 70 percent of the Israeli public accepts a territorial compromise of Two States for Two Peoples, but is equally skeptical about the prospects to achieve it, the disastrous effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be easily ignored,” he continued. “That is why our youth leaders are now campaigning to remind people about how the conflict impedes, for example, our economy, and to mobilize Israeli citizens to vote with the two-state solution in mind.”
At each stop, the ballot becomes a focal point in city centers and campuses, allowing citizens to vote for what they believe is the most important issue on the agenda. To date, hundreds of people cast OVI’s ballots. More stops are on the schedule, including Haifa University, Jerusalem Market, and Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Bynyamin street market.
“The people that came up to my ballot box in Beit Berl were very interested and happy that we were doing this – many gave us their contact information,” said Adva Vilchinski, director of OVI’s youth leadership program. “They understood that the only way to promote whatever he or she voted for is by promoting the two-state solution.”
Town hall meetings across the country, set up and led by OVI activists, are also conveying the same message from the people directly to the candidates for the 19th Knesset. Over 500 citizens engaged in these events, from Tel Hai in the very north, through the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, and down to the south.
“Our events in cities like Beer-Sheva and Sderot in the south are of particular importance,” adds Tal. “These towns were impacted directly and most severely by the conflict. Our activists there bring people the news of a partner that seeks peace and rejects violence, and that is a crucial piece of truth for them to carry in mind when voting on January 22.”
Want to see more? Check out OneVoice Israel’s Facebook page, which facilitates a challenging discussion over the future of Israel and sends out messages about the importance of voting for the two-state solution.