Young Immigrants in Tel Aviv Stand Up for Their Rights With New Social Movement

The movement, Kol Oleh, hopes to harness the collective voting power of recent immigrants.

Hundreds of young immigrants from 12 countries crammed into a Tel Aviv bar on Wednesday night for the launch of Kol Oleh, a movement to empower internationals in the city.

Volunteers collected email addresses and handed out literature about the movement, which means "voice of the immigrant" in Hebrew and was started by 27-year-old American immigrant Guy Seemann. In a short speech, Seemann said the movement's immediate objective is to recruit 7,000 members to vote in the October 22 municipal election.

"There is the 'them' and the 'us,'" he said, referring to the political establishment and English-speaking immigrants, respectively. "We feel like we have a lot to give but we have no voice. If we can get 7,000 people on a list saying, 'I pledge to vote,' the wall between the institutions and us starts to break away."

In order to further bridge the gap, Seemann said Kol Oleh would connect potential voters with decision-makers in Tel Aviv. "We plan to bring political leaders to you so they know who you are and we know who they are," he said. (MK Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid was supposed to attend the launch event but canceled for personal reasons, an aide told Haaretz).

While reiterating that his focus is on the movement, Seemann, who grew up in New Jersey and immigrated to Israel in 2009, said that if offered a spot on a party ticket he would accept. "Get pumped, get engaged, get activated!" he implored the crowd, as Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" played over the bar's sound system.

Mehereta Baruch, who is third on the Meretz ticket for the Tel Aviv City Council, attended the event. She said that as an immigrant from Ethiopia, she sympathizes with the international community in Tel Aviv. "When you see such a large crowd, you understand that there's a need," she said. "And if there's a need, the need should be answered."

Wearing a Kol Oleh T-shirt, Shirli Alaluf was working to recruit new members. The 26-year-old immigrant from Turkey said she became involved because "I want people to feel more at home in Israel, and to make life more fun."