Menu JTA Search

Elections Pass Quietly in Israel; Neturei Karta Leader Arrested

Election Day was a quiet day in Israel as nearly 1,000,000 Israelis went to the polls to elect the nation’s third Parliament, in which 120 deputies will sit. The only untoward incident in Jerusalem came when police arrested Rabbi Amram Blau, leader of the Neturei Karta ultra-Orthodox sect, for carrying on noisy propaganda against voting outside a polling station in the Mea Shearim quarter, the section in which the ultra-Orthodox Jews live.

The first voter in Jerusalem this morning was Interior Minister Moshe Shapira who hurriedly cast his ballot and then left for a tour of the nation’s polling places to check on the administration of the elections. He was followed by Premier Moshe Sharett and President Itzhak Ben Zvi as voters number two and three. In Sdeh Boker, Defense Minister David Ben Gurion voted early, followed by other leaders of his party at the settlement.

The results of the election are not expected to be known with any certainty until later tomorrow or the next day because the polls closed at 11 P.M. and the counting will be relatively slow. It is estimated that under Israel’s proportional representation system a Knesset member will need 80,000 votes to win his seat. Fully 20 percent of today’s voters cast their first ballot; they were either youths who had come of age since the last national election or recent immigrants.

MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS HELD SIMULTANEOUSLY IN 82 LOCALITIES

Municipal elections, held simultaneously with the national elections in 19 cities and 63 towns and villages, attracted a large number of voters. More than 2,150 polling places were set up for the elections. All police were on duty today, with most of them at the polling places. They were assisted by thousands of government workers who had volunteered for election duty.

The day was a holiday for most Israel workers. But newspapermen and those employed in the health services and transportation facilities had to work and turned out early to cast their ballots. Among the other early morning voters were passengers on outbound planes and ships who hurried to Lydda airport or Haifa’s harbor as soon as they had voted.

The election campaign which closed at 6 P.M. last night featured–aside from three unscheduled bomb attacks–a “new look” in posters as Israel’s top artists turned their talents to electioneering on cardboard and banner. Beside this, the various parties demonstrated ingenuity by taking to the air with balloons and to the sea with small motor boats, all loaded with election propaganda.

HUNDREDS OF CHASSIDIM CAST BALLOTS AT POLLING STATION

A demonstration of respect for Israel’s democracy was given today at Bnei Brak, an exclusively Orthodox settlement. Here the Wishnitzer Rebbe, clad in holiday attire, set out for the polling place followed by his Chassidim. Despite the heat of the day, he refused to ride the several hundred yards from his home to the polling station, noting that election day was a holiday.

When he arrived, the single policeman on duty had difficulty in restraining the hundreds of Chassidim who crowded around to watch the Wishnitzer Rebbe come to vote. After the Rebbe dropped his envelope in the ballot box, the chairman of the elections committee kissed his hand.

Later, the Rebbe said that he had instructed his yeshiva students to arise early in the morning in order to make sure they voted. The settlement was the scene of many processions as rabbis and their students walked in a body to cast their votes.

All kinds of predictions as to the outcome of the elections were made prior to the counting of the ballots, but the general opinion was that there might be a very slight change in the composition of the Knesset, with the Progressives expected to win more votes than in the last elections. A coalition cabinet composed of Mapai, Progressives, Leachdut Avodah and Mizrachi Laborites is not precluded.

NEXT STORY