Sunday , March 7 2021

The Jerusalem mayor's race reveals religious secular rift

Jerusalem – Guyoz Golan, a young Israeli businessman, just moved to Tel Aviv, but as a registered voter in Jerusalem, he plans to visit the town on Tuesday to cast his vote for Ofer Berkovitch, the secular candidate who competes in November 13, pays the mayor election here.

"Like everything else in Jerusalem, this choice reflects the clashes between the secular and ultra-orthodox," says Golan and sips coffee with his brother Colin at an outdoor cafe on Friday afternoon, before the Jewish Sabbath.

This conflict, between Berkovitch and Moshe Lion, an orthodox Jew, has focused on religious problems, including sabbath constraints in the capital of Israel. The city's haredi or ultra-orthodox Jews want a complete sabbatical trade settlement for 25 hours in predominantly Jewish western Jerusalem, including nightclubs, bars and cinemas that are now open.

"I am not against religion or religious people, but I want public transport on Shabbat and a mayor who is open," Golan claimed, with the Hebrew word for the Sabbath.

Lion, who allegedly supports Hardu-Rabbi and politicians, has promised to build homes for the ultra-religious community in mixed religious secular areas. He opposes public transport on the Sabbath and has promised never to attend the city's annual Gay Pride march or participate in a panel in a reform synagogue.

Berkovitch has promised exactly the opposite.

Gilad Malach, head of the ultra-orthodox program at the Israeli Democratic Institute, said that some of the unrest of the Orthodox community and other communities stemmed from the long-term housing shortage of the city, exacerbated by the high birth rate.

Ultra-Orthodox families in Israel average seven children, compared to an average of three children in total.

"Haredim moves into religiously mixed neighborhoods and changes the atmosphere" by opening ultra-orthodox schools and synagogues and sometimes closing the streets for traffic on the Sabbath or introducing informal clothing codes on women, Malach explained. "Less religious and secular residents are afraid that in the end they will not feel at home in their own neighborhoods."

Yossi Klein Halevi, a leading man at Shalom Hartman Institute, agreed that non-Harji Jews "fear that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel's secular state, becomes unscathed" to them.

He warned that a haredi victory would increase the flight of young non-haredi residents who make up the city's future tax base, burns its lively art scene and participates in the world-class university.

About 60 percent of Jerusalem's population is Jewish: about half is haredi, the rest secular, traditional or modern orthodox.

The other 40 percent are Arabs, which are about 99 percent Muslim and 1 percent Christians. Most consistent with the Palestinian leader's decree to boycott Israeli elections.

Anat Hoffman, Managing Director of Israel's Religious Action Center, the political arm for the reform movement in Israel, bemoned the "missed opportunity" for religion to be used as an inspiration for reconciliation in a often-spread city.

"Instead of seeing religion as a positive common denominator among us, it is used in the most negative way," said Hoffman. "Candidates have demanded that the municipality no longer be associated with gay pride parade flags and to interrupt religious services to Christians. It is used to limit the lives of others."

Rhetoric around the runoff has become nasty sometimes.

In a video taken Sunday during a political rally, the Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, a leader in one of the hero parties supporting the Lion, called Berkovitch the devil, claiming that the secular candidate would "abandon Jerusalem" if chosen.

Therein said that "all the great rabbis of Israel support [Lion] against a non-religious candidate who literally wants to continue transforming Jerusalem and turning our holy city into a city like any other city. "

It is the case of Mordechai Cohen, a full-time student at a haredi yeshiva.

"Israel is full of cities, but there is only one Jerusalem, the holy city, Jews have prayed for and died for centuries. Foreign Armies robbed our holy temples, destroyed our synagogues, our ancient cemeteries. Now we have our own country and It is within our power to transform Jerusalem into the religious sanctuary wherever it was supposed to be, "said Cohen.

Colin Golan, Guyoz's brother, said he also wants to keep Jerusalem's special character, but not at the expense of non-orthodox inhabitants.

"I can do almost what I want to do on a Saturday, but there is no public transport so the poor who can not afford to buy a car can not visit grandmother on his day," he said.

The Golan brothers said that most of their friends left Jerusalem to drive a more secular lifestyle.

"Young people want to stay here, but in terms of religious freedom, Jerusalem is quite a lost thing," said Colin Golan.

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