The mayoral race of Jerusalem exposes a religious-secular rupture



Jerusalem – Guyoz Golan, a young Israeli businessman, has just moved to Tel Aviv, but as a registered voter in Jerusalem, he plans to visit the city on Tuesday to vote for Ofer Berkovitch, the secular candidate who participates in the mayoral election on November 13th. here.

"Like everything else in Jerusalem, this election reflects the clash between secular and ultraorthodox," Golan said, drinking coffee with his brother, Colin, on a Friday afternoon terrace, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath.

That clash, between Berkovitch and Moshe Lion, an orthodox Jew, began to focus on religious issues, including Sabbath restrictions in the capital of Israel. The Haidi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews of the city want a full Sabbath-related trade closure for 25 hours in predominantly Jewish West 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-minded," Golan said, using the Hebrew word for Sabbath.

Lion, who allegedly has the support of haredi rabbis and politicians, has promised to build houses for the ultra-orthodox sector in mixed religious secular neighborhoods. He opposes public transportation on the Sabbath and has vowed never to attend the annual Gay Pride march or to participate in a panel in a reform synagogue.

Berkovitch has promised exactly the opposite.

Gilad Malach, director of the ultra-orthodox program of the Israel Democracy Institute, said that part of the hostility between the ultra-orthodox community and other communities stems from the long-standing lack of housing, compounded by the high haredi birth rate.

Ultra-orthodox families in Israel averaged seven children, compared with an average of three children in general.

"Haredim moves to religiously mixed neighborhoods and changes the atmosphere" by opening ultra-orthodox schools and synagogues and sometimes closing streets for traffic on the Sabbath or to impose informal dress codes on women, explained Malach. "Less religious and secular residents are afraid that they will eventually no longer feel at home in their own neighborhoods."

Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, agreed that non-Haredi Jews "are afraid that Jerusalem, the capital of the secular state of Israel, will become inhospitable to them".

He warned that a haredi victory would increase the flight of young non-Haredi residents who are part of the future tax base of the city, fuel for his vibrant art scene and visit his world-class university.

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

The other 40 percent are Arabs, who are about 99 percent Muslim and 1 percent Christian. Most of them comply with the decree of the Palestinian leaders to boycott the Israeli elections.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the political branch of the reform movement in Israel, regretted "the missed opportunity" that religion is used as an inspiration for reconciliation in an often-broken city.

"Instead of religion being considered a positive common denominator among us, it is used in the most negative way," Hoffman said. "Candidates have demanded that the municipality no longer hangs the flags of the gay pride parade and stops the religious services to Christians, it is used to limit the life choices of others."

The rhetoric surrounding reproduction has sometimes become dirty.

In a video taken Sunday during a political meeting, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, a leader in one of the Harei parties who supported Lion, seemed to call Berkovitch the Devil and claimed that the secular candidate, if elected, & # 39; Jerusalem would desecrate & # 39 ;.

Deri stated that "all the great rabbis of Israel support [Lion] against a non-religious candidate who literally wants to continue to transform Jerusalem and change our holy city in a city like any other city. & # 39;

That is what Mordechai Cohen is about, a full-time student at a haredi-yeshiva.

"Israel is full of cities, but there is only one Jerusalem, the holy city where Jews have prayed and died for centuries." Foreign armies plundered our holy temples, destroyed our synagogues, our ancient cemeteries. Now we have our own land and it is in our power to transform Jerusalem into the religious sanctuary it was always meant for, "Cohen said.

Colin Golan, the brother of Guyoz, said that he also wants to preserve the special character of Jerusalem, but not at the expense of non-orthodox residents.

"I can do almost anything I want to do on a Saturday, but there is no public transportation, so the poor who can not buy a car can not visit a grandmother on their day off," he said.

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

"Young people want to stay here, but when it comes to religious freedom, Jerusalem is a bit of a lost cause," said Colin Golan.


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