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Israelis Crowd Malls, Beaches, and Restaurants in Rare 'Day Off'

The big winners on Election Day turned out to be the country's malls, restaurants, beaches, and parks
By David Lev
First Publish: 1/22/2013, 9:01 PM

Malha mall, Jerusalem
Malha mall, Jerusalem
Flash90

While the winner of Israel's elections has yet to be announced, the big winners Tuesday were the country's malls, restaurants, beaches, and parks – with nearly all filled to capacity as Israelis took advantage of a rare weekday off, not connected to a religious celebration, with stores, businesses, and places of entertainment wide open.

Retailers were preparing for an “onslaught” of customers on Tuesday, and the airwaves in recent days have been full of advertisements for big sales on clothing, appliances, and groceries. Malls around the country were filled with shoppers, as Israelis enjoyed the national holiday declared for Election Day. Using robo-calling software, parties made hundreds of thousands of phone calls and sent a similar number of text messages urging voters to get out to the polls. In a special message Tuesday afternoon, MK Danny Danon told Likud voters to have a good time on their day off, but to “make sure you finish up the barbecue and family trip and get back home in time to vote.”

Traffic in northern Israel was especially heavy throughout the day, as Israeli families traveled to the Golan and Upper Galilee to see the still-flowing rivers and streams, the result of the recent heavy rainfall. The weather was perfect for a day outdoors: Temperatures were in the low 80s fahrenheit for much of the day, bringing tens of thousands out to beaches and national parks.

But shopping seemed to be the more popular pastime, with retailers reporting huge crowds. Coffee shops and restaurants did land-office business, with waits of an hour plus for a table at even middling eating establishments common. The final numbers have not been tallied yet, of course, but many retailers and restaurant owners are expecting to find that Election Day was a day chosen for big profits.