Yes, today is a public holiday. No, it’s not Purim yet – our day for dressing up. And Tu B’shvat, the new year for trees, had not been brought forward. (Besides, neither of those are public holidays.)
Today is election day. After all these years of living here, the reason why it is a public holiday still eludes me. Still, it’s warm and sunny today, so why not let people relax and enjoy themselves.
In Britain, today would be called a bank holiday; no doubt that has historical significance. In Israel, it’s called a shabbaton, which comes from the word for sabbath: day of rest. It certainly seems like a day of rest today.
As we walked round to our local voting station, we couldn’t fail to notice the lack of traffic on the roads and the unusual calmness of the people we saw. In the station itself, usually a school, the same calm atmosphere was apparent, as you can see.
There was no queue, no problem. We voted and left.
Afterwards, in hot sunshine, I sat on a bench in the little park opposite the voting station. Some election leaflets littered the grass. Occasionally one or two of them got up and moved to a position nearby, helped by a breeze. I watched two men quietly putting up yet another election poster, fixing one side to a sign indicating disabled parking and the other to a branch. People ambled by on their way to vote, one talking to a mobile phone. Children rode bikes. A woman held a dog on a leash while her partner went to vote.
Ordinary people exercising their right to vote. When I lived in Britain, I took that right for granted. Here in Israel, it means more, knowing that not one of our neighbours really has that right.