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10 Israeli Voters Lay Out Their Hopes And Expectations For The Future

03/09/2015 03:51 pm ET | Updated Mar 10, 2015

On March 17, Israelis will head to the polls for elections that may bring the country a new parliament, cabinet and prime minister. Recent exit polls predict a close race between Likud, the party of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Isaac Herzog's Zionist Union party.

Ahead of next week's crucial vote, Israeli-Dutch writer and photographer Judith Hertog spoke to Israelis about their lives and their aspirations for the country. Her project "Views From A Real Place" collects reflections from residents -- about their families, their pasts and their hopes for the future -- that together provide a glimpse of the divergent opinions across the country.

Hertog conceived the project during last year's war between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, amid the extreme rhetoric circulating at the time. "This project is my response to such polarized, extreme opinions," she writes. "I want to offer a more nuanced view of Israeli society and offer a glimpse into the lives and visions of real people who live here, with all their complications and contradictions."

Take a look at some of Hertog's photos below and find out how the Israelis she interviewed responded to one of her key questions.

  • Gavriel
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Gavriel Vinegrad
    Age: 32
    Place of residence: Tel Aviv

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "Nineteen years ago, when I was 13, my parents brought me here, to this square, to that original peace rally [where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated]. I remember when we drove home, after Rabin had been shot. My parents kept saying, 'It’s over. It’s over.' That’s when it all ended. That’s when they killed the peace process.

    I don’t want to live here anymore. I’d like to live in Australia. I traveled there for two years, after the army. I love the quality of life there, the atmosphere, the people ...

    What I see happening eventually is a total war between fundamentalists on either side; a total war, with millions of refugees. Fundamentalism is so popular on both sides because oppressed people, poor people, people who have nothing to lose choose fundamentalism.

    Just today my parents told me they don’t see any future here. I call on young Israelis to just study a profession and leave and take their profession elsewhere. The same for young Palestinians ... Get out of here!"
  • Amalia
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Amalia Avinoam
    Age: 60
    Place of residence: Neve Yam caravan park (Originally: Nisanit, Gaza Strip)

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land? "Obviously, I’d like to have peace and security, but what I truly want is for this country to be just for the Jews. As soon as we decide to make this into a Jewish country -- only for Jews -- we solve the problem. I know it sounds awful -- my son is left wing and if I’d tell him this, he wouldn’t understand -- but it’s what I believe. I know the Palestinians are in a miserable situation, but it can be solved if we separate. The answer is transfer. We’ll give them their own country, we’ll help them move; we can even give them some money to start over. I admit ... in some place in my mind I feel that the world belongs to everyone. But I also think that because of the history of the Jews, with all the trouble we’ve had, and because of all the hatred against us, we need a country for ourselves. Nowadays, everybody talks so nicely and wants to be inclusive and protect everyone’s rights. But if we always welcome others, we’ll hurt ourselves.

    I don’t think the conflict will end. Ever. We won’t reach a peace agreement. It’s a fact: we evacuated Gaza and gave them everything. But now they’re shooting rockets at us from the settlements we abandoned!

    Next week, I’m organizing a trip to Jerusalem for a class reunion. I started getting phone calls from people who are worried and want to cancel because there were riots. I tell them: 'This is our country!' If they are afraid of conflict, they should go live in America."
  • Amit
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Amit Shalit
    Age: 20
    Place of residence: Ashdod

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "I hope there will be peace, though I don’t think it will succeed. At least, I hope we will win, like always. Like, in the Second World War, for example. In the end we won. Whatever happened, we got out of it. Hitler killed plenty of Jews, but many survived and continued. He could have killed all of us. You should look at the bright side. He could have exterminated us all. If you ask me who I hope will be prime minister, I’d say [Avigdor] Lieberman because he’s simply smarter than the others. It’s like ... the facts just show that he makes smarter moves than the other politicians. "
  • Moran
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Moran Tamam
    Age: 25
    Place of residence: Netanya

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "I hope there will be peace and that we don’t have to be afraid anymore. The war started the day after I gave birth. It was the first time I heard real rocket alarms. The attacks from Gaza had never reached this far north. The rockets hit Highway 4, very close to where we live. I had never been in a real war before. I had just given birth and I had never been so afraid. It may have been my hormones ... I cried a lot.

    I also wish it would be less difficult and less expensive to live in this country. I’d like to study more and get ahead in life. I hope things will be good, but I doubt it. Every year, there is another war. My brothers are serving in the army now. It’s scary. I hope there will be peace before Eliah turns 18."
  • Baruch
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Baruch Keter
    Age: 60
    Place of residence: Ramat Gan

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "I hope we’ll have peace with the Arabs, and with everyone. I don’t expect it to happen right now, but you have to believe. It’s like the Messiah. You just have to keep believing that things will turn out well, even if it’s taking its time. Initially, we didn’t believe we’d have peace with Egypt, and, see, then it happened!

    But I don’t expect much from the elections. It’s always the same script: one goes and another one comes. It’s been the same since I was a child: They take money, they give money, they help a little, take a little ... Nothing changes.

    But I’ll vote anyway, for a religious party of course!"
  • Dalia
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Dalia Dadon
    Age: 62
    Place of residence: Jaffa

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "It very much upsets me what’s happening in Israel. I’m very Zionist, but lately, it hasn’t been like it used to be. I’m worried about the country. There’s nobody strong enough to lead us. And -- I love the army -- but I have three grandchildren in the army and I’m worried about them. I mean ... The situation is unclear. I can’t explain what I’m feeling inside, but ... everything is unclear. I’ll tell you something dreadful: If today I was considering bringing children into the world, I would think twice. The situation just isn’t safe.

    If I was in another country and I had to consider immigrating to Israel, I don’t know if I would do it. I’m very confused. We have so many enemies around us and there is anti-Semitism everywhere! We can’t fight the whole world!

    The elections won’t solve anything, because the politicians only take care of themselves. They don’t take care of me! It’s not like it used to be. I remember [Prime Minister Menachem] Begin. He cared about the country! He used to drive a little beat-up car and he lived just like the rest of us.

    I trust Bibi [Netanyahu], or I convince myself to trust him, because I don’t have anybody else. But Bibi travels in a private airplane and he doesn’t even drink the same water as I."
  • Ludmilla
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Ludmilla Koffman
    Age: 82
    Place of residence: Jaffa

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "The Arabs are no good. All the time there are bombings. It’s not good. There won’t be peace."
  • Ofer
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Ofer Mousai
    Age: 37
    Place of residence: Tel Aviv

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land? "I hope the level of education here will improve, because this society is becoming increasingly stupid. It’s sad. You can feel it in people’s attitudes. People are more narrow-minded, less accepting of others. People who themselves are of Iraqi origin will say things like, “Death to the Arabs!” without realizing that they themselves are Arabs of Jewish origin!

    Bibi [Netanyahu] is a charlatan -- a very smart one -- and he runs the whole country for his own profit. I’ll vote for whoever who can rid the parliament of corruption. It’s the corruption that is causing war and widening the wealth gap. The rich are getting rich and the rest is getting poorer. Just like in the U.S.

    But I don’t align myself with either the right or the left. The only thing I know to be constant is death. Except for that, everything is changeable and subjective. I don’t agree with foreign media opinions of Israel. When I read The New York Times, it’s as if people look at you through some filter of their own biases. You can also see it in the UN resolutions. They have denounced Israel, but not North Korea, China, Turkey, Iran, or Iraq ... How is that possible? Are we the only bad guys?

    All in all, it’s good to live here. I can’t imagine living in anywhere else. I like visiting Holland and the U.S., but I’d go crazy living there. But I have applied for a Dutch passport. Just in case ...

    There are two things I’m afraid of: I find it difficult to let go of the idea of Israel as a Jewish country. Maybe it’s because I’ve been indoctrinated with all this talk about the Holocaust and how the Muslims don’t like us. Maybe I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t want there to be a Muslim majority here. It scares me.

    My second fear is that this country becomes a fundamentalist Jewish society. It’s basically the same fear. I’m afraid of all religious fundamentalism, either Jewish or Muslim, because people who think in absolutes don’t look you in the eye; you can’t reason with them. They have some ultimate truth in their mind that cuts them off from humanity."
  • Gilad
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Gilad Bonis-Mahluf
    Age: 17
    Place of residence: Herzliya

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "I very much would like -- I don’t want to say erase Gaza, because not everyone there is guilty -- but there are many people there who only want to hurt us. I’m not in favor of coexistence. But if we have to live with them [Palestinians], we can’t have them blowing up busses or killing Jewish families. I’m in favor of killing every terrorist. If it was up to me, I’d put them all to death. They just want to hurt us. We shouldn’t release terrorists. And if we put them in prison, we shouldn’t give them such comfortable conditions. It’s not fair. If I want to study, I have to pay thousands of shekels, but the terrorists in prison get a free education. Some Arabs go to prison on purpose, just to get a free education and money. When I say coexistence, I mean that they can live here with us. I don’t want to give them territories. If they get territories anyway, they’ll just have more places from which they can attack us, like they’re doing from Gaza. Then, we’ll be surrounded by enemies. I hope it doesn’t get to that."
  • Nada
    Judith Hertog
    Name: Nada Mansoor
    Age: 33
    Place of residence: Tira

    What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
    "I hope there will be peace. I have a good feeling about it ... I can feel that it'll happen. But for myself: In twenty years I’ll still be here, exactly the same, no change. There’s nothing I can do about it. Life is hard. We work, work, work: for our children, to survive, to eat ... but to really make something of your life is hard."

Check out Judith Hertog's website for more of her work.

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