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On Tuesdays We Vote

After only a little over two months in this country I've already taken part in one of it's most amazing aspects—it's democratic process. Some fun facts about Israeli Democracy:

-Israel votes on a Tuesday because in the book of Genesis it is written twice on Tuesday (the 3rd day) that "this was good".

-This is going to be Israel's 20th Knesset (name for the Israeli Parliament)

-Israel has had one female Prime Minister—Golda Meir from 1969-1974

-The Israeli Parliament has 120 seats and a party must get at least 3.25% to sit in the Knesset

-On voting day you go to your polling place, are given a little blue envelope and are invited to go behind a little blue booth. Behind the booth are a selection of little slips of papers, each with the symbol of the participating parties. You choose one slip, seal the envelope and drop it in a blue box.

The election system here is much different than in the US because the style of government is different. Israel has a single chamber parliamentary system, with a Prime Minister (PM) and many more parties than the US. Essentially how it works is you get to vote for a single party. Each party then has a list of people who will sit in the Knesset (name for Israeli Parliament) depending on the percentage of votes they get. For example, Israel's current PM Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, is part of the Likkud party, the party with the highest percentage of seats in the latest Knesset.

The PM is not necessarily the head of the party with the most seats, although they have always been. Once the elections are over each of the parties who qualified to sit in the Knesset go to the President and recommend who they think should be the PM. The President then appoints the PM and gives him/her a time limit to create a coalition. The purpose of the coalition is for the sitting government to function. In the US we have 2 parties, one is always the majority and the other the minority. One needs 61+ seats in the Knesset to have a majority and it is nearly impossible for any single party to receive this high number of seats. Thus, the appointed PM must invite different parties to be part of what is called "the coalition" (essentially the majority party).

The system is a bit complicated to understand initially, so you can imagine how difficult it is to choose who you want to vote for. Do you vote for a larger party in order to influence who will likely become the next Prime Minister? Or do you vote for a smaller, fringe party because you want them to have a significant presence in the coalition? Will the party you want to vote for likely make it into a coalition led by a given PM? So many questions. On one hand the dynamic nature of the Israeli Political systems makes it engaging and fun, but it also makes it challenging to know what choices to make. I personally enjoy it very much and feel so privileged to participate in the only Jewish Democracy in the world! If you're interested in who I voted for and why, feel free to ask me!

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