From Philly, Weighing In On Israeli Elections


The Exponent interviewed Jews in the Philadelphia area bout Israel's upcoming elections and got some diverse perspectives. 

As Israeli voters prepare to go to the polls next week, Jews in the local area are weighing in as well.

Several Jewish organizations and institutions are using the elections as an opportunity to spur engagement among millennials. The Jewish Federation of Greater Phila­delphia, Moishe House and the Jewish Graduate Student Network were hosting a mock election on Wednesday in Center City with Israeli Deputy Consul General Elad Strohmayer serving as moderator. He is also slated to moderate a mock election among students at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy on March 13.

With a seemingly high level of interest among at least some Americans in the Israeli elections, the Jewish Exponent decided to ask Jews around Philadelphia for their views.

Those interviewed offered a wide range of responses on questions about what they would like to see happen and whether they think these elections will have a significant impact on the Jewish state. The responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

David Bettoun, 47, is originally from France and now resides in Merion Station.
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“I hope that Netanyahu or Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home Party, will win because they have a clear language; there is no discrepancy between what they say and what they believe is true. People have seen that their politics have brought a certain level of security and recognition to the land of Israel. I’m hoping that the next government will not try to accommodate the American political tendencies or currents and really care about what’s the best for Israel as an independently electing nation.
“I hope that none of the future governments will actually consider giving land for peace; we’ve seen that it does not work. Gaza was a catastrophe. We’ve seen that the first thing that they did when they got this part of Israel was to start being disruptive to the Jewish population, whether it was in Hebron or Bethlehem. When you want peace, you want peace. When you want land, you don’t want peace.”
Yuval Miara, 40, is from Netivot.
In 2000, he came to Philadelphia and spent five years as a shaliach at Abrams Hebrew Academy. He now works as director of Judaic studies and Hebrew at a Jewish day school in Miami and was in Philadelphia for a day school conference.
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“Unfortunately, I think Bibi is going to win. I don’t want him to win. I think Israel does need a change — I don’t know what change; if it’s somebody from the right wing or the left wing, I don’t care, but Netanyahu has been there too many years; nothing happened under him; nothing changed.
“You can not play all the time on the role of ‘Iran, Iran, Iran. We need to be strong.’ You have a war with Hamas — and my folks live in Netivot —and the results of that war were terrible; Hamas just got better. Netanyahu gave promises without cover. He should offer a plan; something needs to be solved with the Arabs. I would be happy if it would be Yair Lapid or Isaac Herzog taking over and give them the chance; maybe they are going to fail, but at least give them the chance.”
Michael Montague, 17, of Jenkintown is a junior at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and an incoming president of the school’s Israel Club, which is organizing the school’s mock election on Friday.
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“I’m interested in how the election’s going to play out. Not only from the Israelis’ standpoint, but how it transfers to us as Americans. I’m a Likudnik, and especially with everything going on with Iran and Israel’s relationship with the U.S., that’s what we need right now, we need a hawk; we can’t really have a dove.
“That matches my personal view, but I’m representing the Zionist Camp on Friday. What I wanted to look at was how does the opposition play out in Israel? It’s a new perspective. The Zionist Camp would be more open, within reason, to delegating parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians in order to create a two-state solution. They’re more open to it and want it in the immediate future more than what’s being proposed in the Likud. To a certain extent, I like them but in terms of foreign policy right now, which is Israel’s foremost issue, Israel needs to stay firm.”
Hila Huber, 23, is the Israeli emissary in Philadelphia for the youth movement Habo­nim Dror, and as such was able to cast her vote at the Israeli consulate here in
advance of the elections.
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“I voted for the Zionist Camp (officially called the Zionist Union) because their views on social issues and security match my own. I also feel like they are the only party that has a legitimate vision for Israel. They have an impressive list of candidates that have proven experience in creating important policies in Knesset.
“I like Stav Shaffir — she’s helped pass some important laws. I really respect her and feel that she does her best to represent the people that have invested in her. I’m worried about security and the Middle East conflict. I wanted to vote for a party that I know will work on solving the issue through political means.”
Jesse Bacon, 37, has family roots in Philadelphia going back several generations, but he was born in Alaska. Bacon now resides in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, works in communications and helps organize two minyanim in Center City.
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“I am sad for the Israeli political system that they just don’t have a good way to get rid of Bibi. It seems like a lot of people want that, but the math makes it near impossible. He’s like our House of Representatives in one guy. I hope his speech to that very Congress causes a backlash among Israeli voters for damaging the relationship with the U.S. but I don’t know that they care.”
Colette Friedenson, 26, and a native of Minnesota, is currently a veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in West Philadelphia.
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“I’m trying to pay attention to the upcoming election races. I’m a full-time grad student so I’m not really listening to news, and I haven’t found a lot in the news even when I read it. I’ve found that I have to seek out other ways to learn about the elections, usually through some of the Jewish networks that I’m a part of. I was a little bit bothered by the coverage of Netanyahu’s speech before Congress because I feel like that’s one piece of the election build-up and it is obviously a strategic, political move and — I don’t even know if I understand all the nuances of it — it feels like that’s where all the attention is; and, oh yeah, there’s the election. I’m still developing a preference for who wins the election.”
Shaw Levin, 27, is a software engineer who lives in Fairmount.
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“I’ve been following the elections in Israel because I care about Israel, and what happens over there has the power to impact how Jews are seen worldwide. I like Isaac Herzog. I don’t know enough about the Zionist Camp’s economic platform but I think they would be better, in terms of foreign policy, about working with the United States. But I don’t know what they’re going to do about the rising cost of living in Israel and some of the housing issues that are coming up around the country. It’s important because that’s what keeps Israel viable — their economy.”
Emanuel Korn, 25, resides in Bala Cynwyd and works for a custom clothier in Old City.
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“The right-wing parties in Israel have a monopoly on security, which is the most important political issue in Knesset elections. Bibi will hold his seats. The important question is whether the right-wing blocs in his coalition can prevail. Just to clarify, Bibi is the only qualified person to lead the country; it is just a shame that he does so at the expense of the socialist fabric that the country was founded on.”



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