NEW YORK — The Israeli election got a head start on Thursday as employees of Israel’s diplomatic missions abroad were the first to cast their ballots, 12 days before the polls open back home.
“I was very excited the first time as an Israeli diplomat and representative to vote here, but I think I’m even more excited now because it really shows Israeli democracy at its best,” said Almog Elijis, the spokeswoman of the Israeli Consulate in New York, who had voted previously in April’s election.
Elijis was among the close to 800 employees of the Israeli government who were eligible to vote at the New York Consulate, the largest Israeli diplomatic mission in the world.
Located in Midtown, the consulate provides services to some 400 people a day and is responsible for transferring the sealed ballot boxes from all of the North and South American diplomatic missions to the Central Elections Committee in Israel.
Preparations for Election Day took “weeks and weeks,” Elijis said, but when it came to organization, some lessons were learned from the April election: In order to minimize the wait time and reduce long lines, this time there were two polling stations open instead of only one.
“One line is for people working in this building and one is for people from other agencies,” she said.
Those who came to vote in New York were not just consulate workers but also employees of the different ministries working from the tri-state area, Jewish Agency staff and representatives of the national airline El Al, among others.
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One man in line to vote was holding his baby boy. “He’s 7 months old and it’s already his second time voting!” he joked with others in the line.
“It’s déjà vu, yes, and I thought I would feel less excitement but I feel just as excited as last time,” Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan told Haaretz as he stepped out of the voting booth. “The other thing I am pleased with is that I see that the turnout is no less than it was last time, so if this is any indication as to what is going to happen on September 17 in Israel, Israeli democracy is doing well.”
Dayan added that voting is a “home-away-from-home” moment and called on “all of Israel’s civil servants and their spouses” to exercise their right to vote.