Some 60,000 Israelis will be out of the country on Election Day on Tuesday, and unlike in some other countries, there is no absentee ballot (save for diplomats stationed in foreign countries). The exodus abroad began at the weekend, stepped up its pace on Sunday and is expected to continue throughout Monday and even into Tuesday.
Israelis of all stripes - Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, singletons and couples, families and groups – were in evidence Monday at the check-in counters of Ben-Gurion International Airport. Some said that they had booked their tickets before the date of the elections was announced, others said that the outcome as obvious, and some jokingly warned they would decide whether to return to Israel based on the election results.
Yossi Fogel and Shmulik Zeigan, both aged 19 from Kiryat Malachi, were supposed to vote for the first time in their lives on Tuesday. But on Sunday they were standing at the terminal with a Torah scroll, for they were on a mission.
"We are going to northern India to prepare the Chabad House for Passover," they said. "We have a lot of work there, to clean and ready the place. We will have about 150 guests there for the Pesach holiday. It is important to vote - but we have a mission and we cannot just abandon it. "
Anwar from the town of Tira is traveling with her husband and toddler for a holiday in Bodrum, Turkey, and has no qualms about missing the vote. "Only God decides the elections," she said. "We found a date that worked for a vacation and we decided to travel. It is obvious that Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) will win, so what is the point of voting?"
Shai Cohen of Ra'anana, his wife and four children are flying to a wedding in Paris. "The couple are not Israeli," he says. "Now it's wedding season over there and we had no choice."
Also in the queue to check-in are dozens of students from Yokneam, who are heading off on a 10-day trip to China. The students are not yet of voting age, but one of their teachers, 62-year-old Shlomo Kfir, is sorry that he will not be in Israel on decision day. It will be the first time in his life that he will miss a vote.
"It really does bother me," he says. "These elections are very important, but the date for the trip was set before the elections were decided and we simply could not change it."
Next to them is 35-year-old Rotem Cohen, who is traveling to Germany. "It bothers me very much that I will not be voting, but I'm going on a business trip," he says. "I'm tied to a very important project and I could not postpone."
Another traveler is Anan al-Atauna from the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel, who has a surprising perspective.
"If I had not been going abroad, I would have voted for Bibi," he says as he and his wife prepare to fly to a vacation in Antalya, Turkey. And why wouldn't he give his vote to one of the Arab parties?
"What exactly are they doing for us?" he asks. "They are always yelling 'Palestine, Palestine' but neglect the Arab public in Israel."