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In the Bars and Cafes, Israelis Register Their Shock and Delight

Jerusalem’s bars and cafes were unusually crowded Tuesday night, but then, it was no ordinary night.

The crowds, lured outdoors by the elections and the mild summer weather, filled the Ben-Yehudah pedestrian mall and all its side streets. With immigrant musicians playing in the background, Israelis sipped espresso or downed pints of beer, depending on the tone of the conversation.

With few exceptions, the evening’s discussions centered around the elections. As the clock struck 10 p.m. and the first results were broadcast by television and radio, the talking became louder and more animated.

At the Naveh Cafe on Jaffa Road, the crowd was clearly pro-Likud. When the initial results indicated that Labor was leading by a wide margin, Avi Mizrahi shook his head in disbelief.

“I’m in shock,” the taxi driver said as he watched the television and saw Labor celebrate its apparent win. “I feel like someone has hit me over the head with a hammer. This is really a tragedy.”

This view was echoed by Yoni, an exterminator, who also voted for the Likud. “What can I say? I’m disappointed. A Labor victory isn’t good for the country. Labor is on the wrong track.”

At the Riviera Cafe off Ben-Yehudah Street, Sasha, a student who immigrated from the Soviet Union three years ago, said he was pleased by Labor’s lead but skeptical about whether it would have an impact on the way the country is run.

“I’m left wing, so I’m happy about the way things have turned out. Still, I don’t think much will change. Really, I don’t expect much from the elections,” he said.

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