JERUSALEM, April 9 (Xinhua) -- In central Jerusalem, some young Israelis still tried their best to support the Likud party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a propaganda station.
"Yes, Netanyahu!" they said, holding a poster of the Likud's leader.
The polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) for 6.34 million eligible voters to cast their votes in ballots throughout the country and is due to end at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT).
More than 40 parties are competing to grab the 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament).
"No matter which party is elected, I'm looking forward to stability and security," Eashera told Xinhua after voting at a polling station in a kindergarten in central Jerusalem.
Recent opinion polls showed a tight race for the elections, with Benny Gantz's Blue and White party receiving about 30 seats and Netanyahu's Likud slightly lagging behinds with about 28 seats.
"Netanyahu is the best choice to guarantee security for us. Israel is surrounded by strong enemies so we need a strong leader. For many years, only Netanyahu can realize this," middle-aged female voter Dalit Saidia said.
"I voted him (Netanyahu) four times and I will vote him again if he takes part in the next elections," she said, adding that "Gantz advocates for change, but why we need to change?"
A man in his 60s told Xinhua that he wants the current government to continue to lead the country.
"I think that the current government does well in economy, international relations and security. So we should prove that they can continue," he said.
The voter noted that "many people seek for the change, but change doesn't mean a better future," adding that "inexperienced leader may make mistakes but the current government has gained experience in mistakes."
However, Yohaimogen, a PHD student who also expects social stability, chose to vote the Blue and White party.
"I chose Gantz because his party doesn't have corruption ... If the party is elected, I hope that it can lead us to a better future and solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue reasonably," he told Xinhua after voting.
Clinton Bailey, an elderly voter and researcher of anthropology, said at a polling station that he will also support the Blue and White party.
"I'm tired of the current government. If Blue and White wins the elections, it will be more balanced in the Israeli-Palestinian issue and to improve international relations," he added.
Gantz, ex-chief of the Israeli forces, burst into politics about four months ago and has since quickly emerged as Netanyahu's toughest challenger in the looming elections.
In his campaign, Gantz used "unifying" rhetoric, calling for healing rifts in the deeply divided Israeli society. His campaign also speaks against the corruption of Netanyahu's government.
Blue and White's platform calls for "disengagement" from the Palestinians but stops short of supporting a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
In February, his newly-established party formed an alliance with Yesh Atid, or "There is Future" in Hebrew, a centrist party led by Yair Lapid, Israeli former finance minister.
However, even if the Blue and White party gains more votes than the Likud, Gantz is not certain to form the next government unless he forms a coalition with other parties.
According to the recent polls, the right-wing bloc is predicted to gain some 65 seats, far more than the 55 seats predicted to the left-centrist bloc.
Netanyahu, who earlier took to social media to directly address the voters, cast his vote in a polling station near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem.
"Voting is a holy act, the very essence of democracy," local media quoted Netanyahu as saying at the polling station.
The premier's main challenger, Gantz, has also cast his ballot, calling for a "new dawn, a new history" for the country, Israeli media reported.
Gantz voted earlier in his hometown of Rosh Haayin in central Israel. He called on all Israelis to get out and vote, saying they should "take responsibility" for their democracy, according to the report.
By the midday, there were more and more voters going to the polling stations with some elderlies in wheelchairs. Some young couples went to vote by carrying their children.
"I came here earlier because I'm afraid that there will be a lot of people after lunch. I want to finish this task as early as possible," Ran OJ, 28-year-old man said.
He added that he has yet decided to vote which party but "maybe Blue and White ... and I hope for some changes."
"The society needs to be changed," a woman in her 30s told Xinhua that she supports the New Right, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
"I'm favor of the female justice minister because I think that she will do more to improve social justice if the party wins the elections," she said.