Jerusalem – Outside a polling place in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood yesterday, young Hasidic followers of mayoral candidate Meir Porush gathered. On the other side of the street, youngsters in the distinctive dress of the Gerrer Hasidic community set up their own post. The tension between the two camps was palpable.
After a few minutes, the Gerrers crossed the street and entered the station. On the orders of their rebbe, due to a longstanding grievance between their group and Porush’s camp, they were threatening to vote for secular candidate Nir Barkat. All eyes were now on the Gerrer voters to see whether they would indeed “betray” the ultra-Orthodox sector by voting for Barkat.
A young Gerrer walked into the station slowly with his grandfather and assisted the old man in inserting his ballot into the box. On leaving, he encountered an acquaintance from his community and the two began a lively discussion, from which it emerged that both voted for Barkat. “Like everyone,” he told his friend jokingly.
Was his hand shaking, his friend asked. “No way,” was the response. “The rebbe said so, and so we’re happy to vote for Barkat.” Hearing the tale, Moshe Friedman, the head of Porush’s campaign, let out a sigh, saying, “it breaks your heart.”
It seemed that Porush’s camp was in needs every vote it could get. An entire class of developmentally disabled girls arrived at the ballot station escorted by girls from the city’s Beit Ya’akov schools.
“From a legal perspective, for every disabled person who agrees to be escorted, it doesn’t matter the level of their disability or the basis of their disability, the ballot chairman can authorize it,” said Friedman. He did not specify, however, whether the initiative to bring the girls to vote originated with the campaign itself.
Outside, a member of an extreme anti-Zionist Orthodox group sat chain-smoking. Maybe because he was about to cast his first vote – members of his community do not usually cast ballots, as it is seen as an act that strengthens the Zionist regime. Despite rabbinical decrees against voting, many came out to vote anyway, out of a feeling of obligation to Porush. “Porush is one of our own,” said the smoking Hasid. “He studied with my father in yeshiva. He helps us.”