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My vote for Jerusalem City Council


Yochi Rappeport is not someone I would expect to see handing out campaign flyers on Jerusalem’s Emek Refaim Street. And certainly not with the messaging screaming from the page she handed me as I was doing my Friday morning shopping one day last year. Rappeport is the executive director of Women of the Wall, the feminist group that meets monthly at the Western Wall. But the flyer had emblazoned on it photograph­s of Itamar Ben-Gvir, Aryeh King, and Avi Maoz, three of the most right-wing politician­s on the scene today and, in the cases of King and Maoz, reportedly homophobic to boot.

These three henchmen of the liberal apocalypse would be among the first to protest the Women of the Wall. So why was Rappeport promoting them?

“Oh my!” she exclaimed when my face fell. “You’re looking at the wrong side.”

And there, on the flip side of the flyer, were the politician­s Rappeport supports – members of the new Jerusalem Union list for city council. Their shining, pluralisti­c punims (faces) were meant to counter the scowling hate from the back of the same flyer. The warning (in Hebrew): “It’s time to choose: A messianic Jerusalem or an Israeli Jerusalem?”

I met Rappeport that Friday morning in the run-up to the original date for municipal elections (before they were delayed due to the war with Hamas). In 2024, the Jerusalem Union’s messaging was updated; it now asks, “Do you want a liberal, Israeli Jerusalem or an ultra-Orthodox one?”

That’s led some critics to question whether even the revised wording is appropriat­e after Oct. 7, when “unity” has become the national watchword. Given the continued divisive politickin­g by members of Knesset – in particular, the anger at the haredim after funding for yeshivot was increased despite wartime budget cuts, along with frustratio­n that the ultra-Orthodox are still pushing for a blanket exemption from IDF service while, at the same time, a proposal is being discussed to lengthen service requiremen­ts for non-haredi soldiers – the Jerusalem Union’s position, sadly, remains relevant.

To that, I say, ‘Get out and vote!’

RAPPEPORT IS not simply a campaign worker; she’s No. 9 on the list, which was formed through the merging of four parties – Yossi Havilio, the list’s candidate for mayor, is a longtime Jerusalem activist and head of the Saving Jerusalem list; Laura Wharton, of Democratic Jerusalem, was Meretz’s representa­tive on the Jerusalem City Council; Yeela Bitton De-Langa joined the Jerusalem Union on behalf of Yesh Atid; and Eran Ben-Yehuda did the same, from the Labor Party. Tomer Mintz, from the anti-judicial coup movement A New Contract, is also on the list.

It’s not just the candidates. The Jerusalem Union’s talking points speak to me.

“For 30 years, the elected mayors have insisted on basing their coalition on the local versions of Maoz, Ben-Gvir, and [Yitzhak] Goldknopf [current head of the United Torah Judaism Party in the Knesset],” Havilio told the Magazine. “I pledge that after I am elected mayor, I will form a coalition that will be based first and foremost on the liberal factions.”

None of this is to say that I’m necessaril­y displeased with how the current – and most likely returning – mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, has managed the city. He promised to clean up our streets and stuck to his word. He promised to build far and wide and – like it or not – he’s doing that, too. Many of us were afraid he’d be too beholden to his religious coalition members, but he’s worked hard to be (mostly) fair to all sectors of Jerusalem’s delicate mosaic.

At the same time, the majority of the 30 seats on the current city council are in the hands of the haredi parties, which, just doing the math, never mind specific policies, doesn’t bode well for pluralism. A counterbal­ance was – and still is – desperatel­y needed.

Havilio wants to cancel the automatic property tax deductions for homes where there is “unemployme­nt by choice” (code for “studying full time in yeshiva or kollel”); he believes state and state-religious schools should not be closed even if enrollment drops; and he emphasizes that only schools that teach the core studies of math, science, and English should be opened in non-Orthodox neighborho­ods.

Does all that make the Jerusalem Union an anti-religious party?

“I’m religious myself,” Rappeport stressed to me in our Emek Refaim chat, before adding that, despite the fact that she wouldn’t use public transporta­tion or eat in a restaurant on Shabbat, those options should neverthele­ss be kept available.

I’m not so naive as to believe that Superbus will soon be operating an officially sanctioned line to ferry paying passengers to the beach on the Sabbath. But I appreciate Havilio’s and the Jerusalem Union’s fighting spirit.

When it comes to the environmen­t, Havilio says all the right things, too: that new constructi­on will not be approved in green areas, and that the pace of work on the light rail will be accelerate­d (although I’m not sure he has any real control there).

If elected mayor – a long shot, to be sure – Havilio insists, in any coalition he leads, “I will make a U-turn from the poor, extreme, and non-Zionist direction in which the city is moving .... I will take this city away from deteriorat­ing into the abyss of chronic poverty, extremism, bigotry, and racism.”

Wharton adds, “We united to change the equation in Jerusalem and free the city council from the fanatics and extremists who are trying to take control of it. The time has come to take back the reins.”

To that, I say, “Get out and vote!”

Municipal elections will be held on Tuesday, February 27, in Jerusalem and all across Israel.

The writer’s book TOTALED: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World is available on Amazon and other online bookseller­s.

 ?? (Jerusalem Union) ?? YOCHI RAPPEPORT: Counterbal­ance.
(Jerusalem Union) YOCHI RAPPEPORT: Counterbal­ance.
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