Hopeless in Hatzor: Indifferent Residents of Galilee Town Rally Around Likud

Here, 'everybody thinks that left-right is about how much you love or hate Arabs.'

Roy (Chicky) Arad
Roy Arad
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Dror Sulami, 23, of Hatzor Haglilit.
Dror Sulami, 23, of Hatzor Haglilit.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Roy (Chicky) Arad
Roy Arad

Itay Badash sits bored at the gas station in Hatzor Haglilit waiting for cars. He’s 29, he studied sound in Tel Aviv, got a truck and a forklift license, but didn’t find any work in that either. Meanwhile, he’s working for minimum wage at the gas station. He wants to propose to his girlfriend but he doesn’t because he doesn’t own an apartment. And with that depressing state of mind that turned gradually into indifference, he still voted Likud.

Hatzor Haglilit, a town of 9,000 between bourgeois Rosh Pina and Kiryat Shmona, is a place you hear about usually when there’s trouble at the Pri Hagalil canning plant, which provides a livelihood for most of the people here, but also created dependence on it.

“I voted Bibi but I believe nothing will change,” says Badash, referring to Benjamin Netanyahu. “At least in terms of security we’ll be able to sleep well at night because of him, but all the politicians just throw words around. Housing is expensive, life is expensive and salaries are lowThe people in the Knesset don’t care about our lives,” Badash says.

“The problem is that the state gives preference to Arabs and Thais. I tried to work in harvesting and construction and I decided not to,” Badash continues. It turns out he didn’t want to be the only Jewish worker among Arabs. “We have a problem. The Arabs have taken over the places. In Rosh Pina they’re all Arabs. In the Knesset look what happened, how they took over.”

In Hatzor Haglilit support for the ruling party rose from 33 percent to 44 percent. Zionist Union received only 6 percent and no more than 10 residents voted for Meretz.

Shimon Swisa, the mayor of Hatzor Haglilit, who is a Likud member and looks like a soap-opera star, takes me, in honor of Good Deeds Day, to an event to encourage recycling.

Swisa throws around optimistic numbers about Hatzor Haglilit: government investments in the hundreds of millions, a stadium, hundreds of houses under construction, commercial centers, tax breaks, positive migration and high matriculation rates. “The prime minister proved that he cares and he cracked the genetic code of the outlying areas,” Swisa says. I tell him his office has more sofas than we have Meretz voters.”

Shimon Swisa, the mayor of Hatzor Haglilit. Photo by Gil Eliyahu

When I tell the union head at Pri Hagalil, Moti Haziza, about the accomplishments Swisa talked about, he says politely: “As a resident of Hatzor Haglilit I don’t see it.” Haziza says he didn’t vote for Netanyahu. He helped the United Torah Judaism campaign, maybe to please the future chairman of the Finance Committee, who will someday need to rescue the plant, but he won’t say who he voted for.

“Bibi worked on psychological fear; people in Hatzor were afraid of Arabs rioting. But Likud didn’t help the outlying areas or Hatzor,” he said. Haziza added that he is considered “relatively leftist” because of close ties with former Histadrut chairman Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz and to his faction colleague MK ShellyYacimovich. “But the left couldn’t market itself,” everything because of geniuses and professors, people like Hetsroni,” he said, referring to the controversy stirred by former Ariel University lecturer Prof. Amir Hetsroni who, during a television interview, blamed the election results on Israelis of Middle Eastern (Mizrahi) origin, and said the country would have been better off if they’d never come here.

I tell him that Hetsroni actually taught at Ariel University [in the West Bank], writes a column for the conservative daily Makor Rishon and is a proud capitalist – but Haziza insists Hetsroni is a leftist.

Before I got to Hatzor, I remembered that in the beautiful summer of 2011, I interviewed an impressive young woman named Hannah at a protest tent site in the town, who recounted the social struggle she was waging together with other residents. I hoped to meet her but a quick look at Facebook showed she had changed course. Before the election she proposed that in addition to the regular ballot, voters should put a note in the envelope with the letter “m” calling for the messiah to come. She declined to be interviewed for this report.

Dror Sulami 23, who works in a furniture store and is from Moshav Yodfat in the Galilee hills, recently got out of the army. He says last time he voted for the Jewish-Arab party Hadash. This time he voted for the Sephardic party Shas, thanks to the influence of radical Mizrahim and Shas chairman Arye Dery’s new social policies. He’s a leftist, he said, to the shock of others present, but “I didn’t want the partnership because of the union,” he said, referring to the three Arab parties that ran on a joint ticket together with Hadash, “and certainly not Meretz.”

Sulami said he was the odd man out in his family, who voted Likud “and they hate the ultra-Orthodox no less than the Arabs.”

Before I leave the recycling event, Noa Daniel runs over to me. She voted Meretz but her vote didn’t count in Hatzor, because she lives here as a pre-army volunteer for a year and she voted elsewhere. “Leftist here is considered a curse word,” she says. “Everybody thinks that left-right here is how much you love or hate Arabs. We tried to explain to the kids that there’s the social issue, but it’s deeply rooted that the left are haters of Israel.” Daniel says before the election she asked Zionist Union and Meretz to bring campaign posters to Hatzor but “there was not one sign from a leftist party anywhere. They said they had a tight schedule.”

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