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What to Know Before the Israeli General Elections Posted by on Apr 8, 2019 in Today's Israel

General elections will be held in Israel this month, on April 9th.

Image via Pixabay

Elections (בְּחִירוֹת) in Israel are held every four years, always on Tuesday (since 2003). Election day (יוֺם בְּחִירוֹת) in Israel is a sabbatical day (יוֺם שַׁבָּתוֹן), except for security forces, health services, and other essential services as transportation, communications and gas. The statutory day off from school and work enables citizens to exercise their right to vote (זְכוּת הַצְבָּעָה), providing them the time to go to the polls.

The elections are carried out manually. Citizens are required to go to the polling station (עֶמְדַּת קַלְפִּי), and to identify themselves to the polling station committee with an identification card (ID, driving license, or passport). Then they will be given a blue envelope (מַעֲטָפָה) to take with them into the voting booth.

Behind the divider (פַּרְגּוֹד) there’s a box with piles of white notes. The number of piles represents the number of the parties running for the election. The parties appointed their leaders beforehand, so the vote is not for a particular candidate for prime minister (רֹאשׁ מֶמְשָׁלָה), but for a party (מִפְלָגָה). On each ballot note (פֶּתֶק הַצְבָּעָה) appears the name of the party. The voter (מַצְבִּיעַ) chooses the note of the party that he considers worthy of representation in the House of Representatives – the Knesset (כְּנֶסֶת).

Israel elections 2015 by דוד שי on Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Confidentiality is important in the process of voting. It’s made to ensure no one influences the citizen’s vote. Escorts are not allowed behind the blue divider. The voter chooses the note of the party he wishes to vote for and puts it in the envelope leaving the booth. Then the voter drops the envelope into the blue ballot box (קַלְפִּי) placed in front of the polling station committee.

PikiWiki Israel 42039 Israel Election Day 2015 by Hedva Sanderovitz on Wikimedia Commons under public domain

The polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The lines are usually not long, and the vote itself takes only a couple of minutes. Many, therefore, enjoy the rest of the day with family and friends. The sabbatical day permits an employee to be absent from work and to still be entitled to payment. An employee who does work on the sabbatical day will be entitled to his or her salary at a rate of 200%. Entertainment businesses enjoy more customers on election day, and therefore are willing to pay the higher wages to their workers.

The sabbatical day allows the voters to participate in the celebration of democracy, in attempt to increase the voter turnout (אָחוּז הַצְבָּעָה). Over the last decades voter turnout has been steadily declining in many established democracies, including Israel. Voter turnout in the first general elections held in 1949 was the highest turnout ever: about 87%. The turnout in the 2015 general elections was lower: 72.3%.

The voting age (גּׅיל הַצְבָּעָה) in Israel is 18, and there’re more than 6.3 million Israelis eligible to vote in the coming election.

The results of the election will start coming in pretty quickly. Exit polls (מִדְגָּם) are published right after the polls close. By Wednesday the Knesset seats will be declared, but it will take several more weeks before the 21th government (מֶמְשָׁלָה) will be settled.


Text vocabulary

Election = בְּחִירוֹת

Election day = יוֺם בְּחִירוֹת

Sabbatical day = יוֺם שַׁבָּתוֹן

Knesset = כְּנֶסֶת

Government = מֶמְשָׁלָה

Prime minister = רֹאשׁ מֶמְשָׁלָה

Party = מִפְלָגָה

Right to vote = זְכוּת הַצְבָּעָה

Voter = מַצְבִּיעַ, בּוֹחֵר

Polling place, polling station = עֶמְדַּת קַלְפִּי; in spoken language will be usually shorten to just קַלְפִּי.

Ballot box = קַלְפִּי

Divider = פַּרְגּוֹד

Envelope = מַעֲטָפָה

Ballot note = פֶּתֶק הַצְבָּעָה; in spoken language will be usually shorten to just note פֶּתֶק.

Turnout = אָחוּז הַצְבָּעָה

Voting age = גּׅיל הַצְבָּעָה

Exit poll = מִדְגָּם


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