Municipal elections will be held in nearly every city in Israel in less than a month, and the race in the capital, Jerusalem, is especially heated.
As has been the case for the last few elections in the Holy City, one of the main issues is which candidate will better protect its unity and Jewish sovereignty. Perhaps a better way of putting it, now that Aryeh King has dropped out of the race, which candidate will more endanger these precious values? For neither the incumbent mayor, Nir Barkat, nor his main rival, Likud-backed Moshe Lyon, has shown undying loyalty to the city’s all-Jewish and all-Israeli status.
Given that the Arab world does not cease chiseling away at the world’s perception of Yerushalayim as historically Jewish, and insists on receiving half the city in any future diplomatic arrangement, strong mayoral backbone on this matter is particularly essential.
Evidence of this sorry state of affairs abounds. Mayor Barkat, with a strong background in economics, has released a 90-second video promo, in which he outlines his plans for the city in various spheres of action: Economic growth, sports, culture, education, helping the outlying neighborhoods, new classrooms for the Arab sector – yet the promo includes not a single word about keeping Jerusalem united, whole, and under Israeli sovereignty.
Yes, the narrator does say at one point, “We will continue to … strengthen the status of Yerushalayim as the capital – ” but then adds, “of sports in Israel.”
King, a well-known activist on behalf of Jewish settlement throughout Jerusalem, has long criticized what he feels is Barkat’s desire to split the city. He notes that Barkat began his political career in the now-practically defunct left-wing Kadima party, “and has taken the path of its founder, Ariel Sharon. He has caused great harm to the seamline neighborhoods and the Old City, and is leading to a split in the city….”
Sadly, there is no strong indication that candidate Lyon will be any better. Though he is religiously observant and is strongly identified with the Likud party, his platform does not mention any plans to guarantee the political future of the city.
A top accountant, Lyon’s national governmental activity has been limited to economic matters, not diplomacy. His opponents lose no opportunity to note that he is backed by Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri and Yisrael Beitenu leader MK Avigdor Lieberman: Deri is known as a supporter and even facilitator of the Oslo process, while Lieberman is alleged to have called for the transfer of Arab-populated neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.
While Lyon is backed by the haredi parties, Barkat has been endorsed by leading religious-Zionist rabbis such as Rabbis Chaim Druckman, Shlomo Aviner, Eitan Eisemann, and Avichai Ronsky.
Four religious parties are fielding candidate lists for the Jerusalem Municipal Council, though not for mayor, in the upcoming elections. United Torah Judaism, the largest faction in the municipality with eight council seats, has unleashed a catchy campaign slogan: “We need you for a tenth,” as in a minyan – referring to the party’s ambition to grow to 10 council seats.
“Our eight UTJ municipal representatives work for you non-stop with great dedication,” the party literature states, “but this time, so that they won’t be able to ignore us and so that a governing coalition won’t be formed without us, eight is just not enough. We need no fewer than ten representatives on the municipal council. It’s up to you.”
Shas is running as well, as are two (!) religious-Zionist lists. Naftali Bennett, a rookie politician who led his Jewish Home party to impressive success in the national elections, failed to maintain harmony in the party’s Jerusalem chapter. He parachuted Dov Kalmanovitz (the first victim of the first intifada) to the top of the party list – and though Kalmanovitz is well-respected, his abrupt arrival on the scene in that manner caused great consternation among much of the party faithful.
The split-off was not long in coming, with a breakaway list headed by Shmuel Shakdi. This latter has strong support – including from Aryeh King, who gave up his own mayoral ambitions and joined up as the party’s number-two. “On behalf of unity in the city and in the pro-Jerusalem camp,” King explained, “we have joined forces – those who love Jerusalem and those who love the Torah.”
In the shadow of the stormy city elections, a small but significant step was taken this past week toward a permanent Jewish presence even in “contested” parts of the city. A Jewish-owned property surrounded by Arab tenants, many of them illegal, received its own road in an informal dedication ceremony during Sukkot.
The event was sponsored by Yitzchak Herskovitz, 82, who has spent virtually all of his last 20 years fighting in court a clan of illegal Arab squatters on his property. The plot is located in Arab-populated Beit Tsafafa, adjacent to the major north-south city artery Derekh Hevron as well as the Jewish neighborhood Givat HaMatos. Herskovitz, a feisty former Californian who does not know the meaning of the word “surrender,” has single-handedly prevented a prime piece of Jerusalem real estate from being permanently taken over by a gang of Arabs who lack even a legal permit to be in Israel.
The specific milestone event he commemorated this past holiday was a notable one: The naming and dedication of a new, private road to the otherwise land-locked property. The road is still just a rocky dirt path, essentially unusable for motor vehicles; not only that, it is on property owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. But because it has been used as a walking route to the property for many decades – Herskovitz has aerial photos from the 1930s attesting to this – a court has ruled the church cannot prevent Herskovitz from using it to access his property.
As Herskovitz told some 30 friends and supporters, including Nadia Matar and Aryeh King, who assembled in the sukkah on his property, “the court decision affirms my legal right to obtain a permit to straighten the road and pave it with asphalt – which I plan to do, with God’s help, as soon as possible.”
The name of the new road? “Orchot Tzadikim” – Paths of the Righteous.
Want to help keep Jerusalem Jewish and united under Israeli sovereignty? KeepJerusalem.org invites you to participate in our bus tours of eastern and northern Jerusalem. For information, e-mail email@example.com or visit our website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
Hillel Fendel and Chaim Silberstein / KeepJerusalem.org