Israelis go to the polls in large numbers

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis went to the polls to elect the 19th Knesset.

More than one-quarter of eligible Israeli voters had exercised their civic right and duty as of noon on Tuesday, reportedly the highest voter turnout since 1999.

Most polls will remain open until 10 p.m.

There are 5,656,705 eligible voters and some 10,132 ballot boxes set up across the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Western Wall Tuesday morning after voting when the polls first opened in Jerusalem. He reportedly placed a paper in the wall asking for success in the day’s election.

President Shimon Peres also voted early in Jerusalem. “In 65 years of existence Israel went through seven wars but never lost its democratic freedom. We fought for our survival but never gave up our democracy. We are a unique country; neither war nor trouble can overcome freedom. Today is a celebration of that democracy. I wish all the candidates good luck.”
President Peres called upon the citizens of Israel to vote “Today the state is asking citizens to vote for a free, beautiful, democratic country. You can hesitate over who to vote for, but don’t hesitate to vote,” he said. 

Most Israelis have Election Day off of work and schools throughout the country are closed. The day has been sunny and warm, and many Israelis have used the day as an opportunity to travel to different areas of the country, including the north, where there is snow and skiing on Mount Hermon.

Some 85 percent of the ballots cast Tuesday will be counted late at night after the polls close, with the rest counted on Wednesday.

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