TEL AVIV, Israel - Voting day has always been exciting for me. It started when I was a kid in Iran. Our local Kebab Restaurant (Kababi Najafi) was run by a member of the local Islamic committee. On voting days, he turned it into a voting office. For us kids, it was a good chance to gather around and play football. On such occasions, there were far more of us so it was twice the fun. The reason for the added numbers was because the streets were closed, due to fear of car bombs.
So instead of playing football between passing cars on the street, which on many occasions caused death or maiming of children (I was run over three times and nearly died during my first experience), we played football without the fear of Tehran's drivers. To us they were far more scary and real than car bombs.
I lived in Iran until I was 14, which meant I was too young to vote. In 1987 we moved to England. During my 17 years there, I never voted. This was because I was either too young, or moving around too much between Universities. Also, on a personal level, I didn't feel connected to the political system. The UK is a wonderful country, but politically, I never felt that I belonged.
This all changed when I moved to Israel in 2004. Politically speaking, I felt very connected here. After having left Iran, this was the first place where I felt at home. This country is no paradise by any stretch of the imagination, however as an Iranian Jew, I was welcomed and treated as an equal. As a family we have never felt discriminated against, because of our background. Israel gave us opportunities to progress professionally and in terms of education. This made me feel both happy and guilty.
The guilt came from the fact that Israel's Ethiopian citizens have been left behind. In some cases, they still live in immigrant absorption centres, despite the fact that they have lived here for more than 10 years. Many Ethiopians have progressed, but many have also been left behind.
In the 2006 elections, Kadima, who had backed the Gaza withdrawal, was slated to win. I thought that the peace process had enough support, so I could afford the luxury of voting with my conscience. The party who I chose to vote for was called Atid Ekhad (one future).This despite the fact that Shaul Mofaz, a fellow Persian whose family are also from Esfahan, was running for Kadima.
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