There are Israeli voters who made some surprising and rather unexpected choices for political candidates on Tuesday, January 22.
Yair Hizni, who grew up in a settler family in Hebron, is casting his vote for Shelly Yachimovich, the leader of Israel's Labor Party. Hizni, a teacher who lived in the settlement community of Nokdim in Judea before recently moving to Jerusalem, spoke with with me about his decision to support Yachimovich.
"It's less about the political parties and more about who Shelley is for me," said Hizni.
"I believe that Shelly speaks a language that people can respect -- she is a very ethical and honest person," said Hizni.
"Shelly doesn't take the typical left-wing stance on certain issues and has the ability to bridge between the different sectors of Israeli society and solve the problems of this country," he said.
"Take for example, the settlers," said Hizni. "Shelly is probably one of the few politicians on the left who doesn't speak with hate against the settlers -- as well as the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel -- she is someone who wants to talk with these groups. She doesn't speak with the hatred that has characterized many leftist politicians over the years against the settlers."
In an interview with Ha'aretz last year, Yachimovich stated that seeing the settlers join Israel's summer social justice protests made her "unequivocally" happy. "There is a new language, a unifying language, a uniting language," she stated in the interview.
"But for me," said Hizni, "Shelly's stances on economic and domestic issues are just as important. The economy, the weaker sectors of our society -- for example, the elderly, Holocaust survivors -- also need to be addressed."
In a country where politics is taken very seriously, Hizni says that his parents, who live in Hebron, found it difficult in the beginning to accept his more liberal perspective.
"In the beginning, they were shocked," he said laughing. "Politics is very important to them. But now we talk freely about politics and I love the dialogue -- even with their right-wing neighbors."
Another Israeli citizen, Khaled Mazared of Beit Zarzir, in northern Israel, is also looking for an "honest" politician. Mazared is casting his vote for the religious Zionist party, Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home.
A Bedouin who served as Captain in the IDF's Givati brigade, Mazared believes that Bennett's "stand on Israel's security and his commitment to the spirit of the IDF and values of the army and soldiers' moral is critical."
For Mazared, who is Muslim, the fact that Bennett is religious and wears a kippa makes him trustworthy. "In the army, I served with men like Bennett, who were religious and had values. I know their word is good, and, based on my army experience, I trust Bennett," Marazed told me.
"Bennett speaks in a simple and real way. He says that whoever is loyal to the country deserves to be acknowledged for their service and to be addressed. As a Bedouin, politicians have always made us promises and in the end, they didn't do anything," Mazared said.
Bedouin citizens are a minority within the Arab minority in Israel, and make up three percent of Israel's population. Considered to be semi-nomadic tribes, most Bedouins originally came from Hejaz, a region in the northern Arabian peninsula, and immigrated to Israel between the 14th and 18th century. Some also arrived in Israel from the Syrian desert. Today Israel's Bedouin tribes are found in the southern, central and northern regions of the country, with a significant number, especially those from northern Israel, serving in the IDF and identifying with the Jewish state.
"Most of my community want to give Bennett a chance -- he is new and it seems that he will be able to appreciate the Bedouin people and help us, especially with education, government employment and public transportation. My Bedouin community has always supported politicians like General Raful Eitan and Rehavam Ze'evi in the past, and Bennett seems to follow their path."
"I hope that Bennett does well on Tuesday," concluded Marazed. " I've done everything I can to encourage other Bedouins to vote for him."
Israel's Bedouins sit together with Jewish Home politicians in a support rally on Sunday, January 20. Photo: Tazpit News Agency.