Jewish voters in Lebanon only exist on paper in the country because the majority of them live abroad. Some one hundred Lebanese Jews, most of them elderly, are currently present in Lebanon and they often abstain from voting in elections.
Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, the first since 2009 when only five Jews voted.
Jews in Lebanon account for 0.13 percent of the registered voters in Sunday’s polls. They total 4,704, the majority of whom vote in Beirut’s second electoral district, where 4,453 are registered.
The majority of these voters, however, do not live in Lebanon.
Researcher at Information International Mohammed Shamseddine told Asharq Al-Awsat that Jews are registered in Beirut’s Wadi Abu Jamil and Minet al-Hosn areas.
In 2009, the five voters, a male and four females, voted in Minet al-Hosn in favor of the March 14 camp. He predicted a similar low turnout for Sunday’s elections.
Lawyer at the Jewish religious authority in Lebanon Bassam al-Hout confirmed the low turnout, saying the Lebanese Jews living abroad constantly visit their home country, “but they do not care about the elections.”
He denied claims of a Jewish boycott of the vote over a lack of a representative at parliament, saying that such an objection was “not realistic.”
Lebanese law does grant minority sects in Beirut, including Jews, a seat in parliament. The minorities representative is currently Mustaqbal Movement MP Nabil de Freij, an Evangelical Christian, which is another of Lebanon’s minority sects.
Since the establishment of the Lebanese republic, no Lebanese Jew has ever occupied a seat at parliament.
Jews had a municipal representative in Minet al-Hosn. The last known such representative was Saad al-Minn, who immigrated from Lebanon in 1975 after the eruption of the civil war.
Jews in Lebanon have representatives, the most prominent of whom is Jewish Community Council president Isaac Arazi.
New York France and Brazil were the main destination of immigrant Lebanese Jews. The largest immigration wave took place in 1984, which left Beirut with a few hundred Jews.
Hout said: “Lebanese Jewish expatriates visit their home country from time to time because they love Lebanon.”
The young generation often visits Beirut and the cities of Aley and Bhamdoun. They travel to tourist spots and the graves of their ancestors, he explained.
“They do not deny that they are Lebanese,” he added.
Despite the predicted low turnout, Hout remarked that Lebanese expatriate voting, a first in the country’s history, will encourage the Jews to vote in the future.
“Nothing is hindering their return to Lebanon where they have a history and properties,” he said.
Moreover, Beirut’s Maghen Abraham Synagogue recently underwent a renovation process, but it has yet to be officially opened.