Shelly Is Still the Queen of the Kibbutz

The Labor Party leader was the target of much criticism by kibbutz members during the campaign, but on Election Day she got a warm welcome at Givat Brenner.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The kibbutzniks at Givat Brenner were surprised by the unexpected visit. A bit after noon, Labor Party chair Shelly Yacimovich stepped out of the air-conditioned van and headed in the direction of the polling stations. Yacimovich did a tour on a golf cart-inspired vehicle ubiquitous on the kibbutz, had her picture taken with kibbutz children and galvanized the thrilled residents to go and vote.

Wearing a tembel hat, Moshe Even, the kibbutz gardener for some 40 years, approached Yacimovich excitedly and called out: “Our Shelly is the queen.” Other residents also went up to her and wished her success. David Tal, head of the Labor Party branch at the kibbutz, reported a turnout of 39 percent of eligible voters – a relatively high rate for noon. The warmth with which Yacimovich was greeted at the kibbutz was extraordinary, given the sharp criticism leveled at her by members of kibbutzim during the campaign.

Yacimovich came here on Election Day in order to make sure the party’s supporters come out to vote. In recent months a dark shadow fell between the kibbutzim and the Labor Party after Yacimovich pushed the kibbutzniks out of the realistic slots on the Labor Party slate. In the wake of that move some resigned from the party and some announced they wouldn’t even vote for it in the election.

Throughout, Yacimovich said the anger towards her was coming from the party hacks at the kibbutzim who understood that in any case they would not be able to obtain the kind of placement they wanted on the slate. According to Tal, “There wasn’t great anger here at Yacimovich but there were a lot of complaints. I told this to Boojie (MK Isaac) Herzog too. In the internal primaries mechanism the kibbutzim got overlooked.”

The number of eligible voters at Givat Brenner is the largest among all the kibbutzim – 1,560 members of the kibbutz and residents of the newer community adjacent to it. Tal estimates that 40 percent of them are Labor supporters.

Throughout the visit Yacimovich evaded questions about the crisis between her and the kibbutz movement. “There isn’t any other party that is so closely connected to the values of the kibbutzim. We have the deepest commitment to the rural labor Zionist communities, even to the privatized kibbutzim,” she said.

Later she expressed optimism on the outcome of the voting today: “The 47 percent of the undecided voters we segmented informed us yesterday that they have climbed down from the fence and have decided to vote for Labor. We are feeling a significant wave in our direction." The Labor Party leader implied that a Netanyahu victory is not inevitable. "The more people go out and vote, the greater the chance for a reversal,” she said.

Shelly Yacimovich planting a tree. The Labor leader may have severed the party's kibbutz roots. Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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