The es­sen­tial Ei­tan Ginzburg

An in­ter­view with Ra’anana’s cur­rent act­ing mayor – who hap­pens to be gay – about his de­sire to do an­other term and ‘Make Ahuza Street great again’

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By CARL HOFF­MAN

Ei­tan Ginzburg is a politi­cian with an im­pres­sive past and a promis­ing fu­ture. Af­ter 15 years on the city coun­cil of Ra’anana – a city com­prised of over 20% olim from English-speak­ing coun­tries – he be­came act­ing mayor when long­time mayor Ze’ev Biel­ski de­parted to lead the Na­tional Hous­ing Au­thor­ity. With Biel­ski’s en­dorse­ment, Ginzburg is now run­ning for mayor in his own right. His pic­ture adorns fly­ers, posters and ban­ners from one end of Ra’anana to the other, and he is con­stantly cam­paign­ing.

Ginzburg, 41, was born and raised in Ra’anana and went through the city’s pub­lic schools. Ed­u­cated as a lawyer, with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in law and gov­ern­ment and an MA in pub­lic pol­icy, he also com­pleted the pres­ti­gious Lead­er­ship Pro­gram of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Whar­ton School of Busi­ness. He has served as Ra’anana’s deputy mayor, chair­man of the city’s wa­ter cor­po­ra­tion and head of its en­gi­neer­ing de­part­ment. He is also a re­serve ma­jor in the IDF.

Ei­tan Ginzburg is also gay. He has lived with a same­sex part­ner for 15 years, and with the as­sis­tance of a sur­ro­gate mother in the US, they have one-year-old twins. All of this is some­thing one doesn’t see in Is­raeli pol­i­tics ev­ery day, and Ginzburg is the first and only self-de­clared gay mayor in Is­rael.

The Jerusalem Post Mag­a­zine sat down re­cently with Ginzburg and asked him a few ques­tions.

As you have no doubt al­ready dis­cov­ered, the job you now have and are try­ing to keep is not easy. Why do you want to be mayor?

Wow! This is the first time any­one has ever asked me this. It’s a very good ques­tion.

I grew up here in Ra’anana. When all of my friends left to do dif­fer­ent things, I stayed be­cause I re­ally love this city – and I love pub­lic ser­vice. I find it much more in­ter­est­ing than the pri­vate sec­tor. I be­lieve in pol­i­tics, be­cause I think it’s the best way to have in­flu­ence. I love this city and I love serv­ing it. I have a lot of plans that I want to of­fer Ra’anana, but at the same time, we are liv­ing in a very good city with a high qual­ity of life, and I want to keep it that way. Keep what we want to keep, and change what needs to be changed. Be­ing mayor is the best way to do this.

A big bunch of peo­ple are run­ning for this job. Why should you be mayor and not one of them?

I’m the youngest can­di­date. In spite of that, I think I un­der­stand what needs to be kept and what needs to be changed to bring this city to the next level. I am also the most ex­pe­ri­enced. You know, 30 years ago, a young man was elected mayor here. He was Ze’ev Biel­ski, and he was 39 years old – more or less my age. He changed this place from a small town that few peo­ple even knew about to a mod­ern place with a very high stan­dard of liv­ing. Af­ter 15 years in city gov­ern­ment, I think I know what changes need to be made, and how to do it.

What kind of changes to you want to make?

Do you want some “Don­ald Trump”? I think we need to make Ahuza Street great again. It was once the heart of the city, the cen­ter of the city, a place where peo­ple used to meet. When I was a kid, we all used to “go out” to Ahuza, to shop and for re­cre­ation. To­day it’s not the same. We need more cul­ture there, more ac­tiv­i­ties, and to re­new it phys­i­cally – of course with more park­ing spa­ces.

We un­der­stand some of the older res­i­dents – some born here and oth­ers who came here to live in a small town – when they say they don’t want too much de­vel­op­ment. But this is a city, now with a pop­u­la­tion of 88,000 peo­ple. We’re one of the 15 big­gest cities in Is­rael. We need to de­velop. I don’t want to make Ra’anana like Pe­tah Tikva or Hod Hasharon. I don’t want a lot of very tall build­ings. We want to keep the com­mu­nity feel­ing that we have now. We love Ra’anana, we want to de­velop it, but we want to keep the things that make it spe­cial.

Where are you po­si­tioned on the map of Is­raeli pol­i­tics – left, right or cen­ter?

I am a mem­ber of the La­bor Party, but that has noth­ing to do with lo­cal pol­i­tics. Here in Ra’anana I’m run­ning as an in­de­pen­dent. I have my own lo­cal party here, called Lev, or Heart, and it’s com­posed of peo­ple who care about Ra’anana.

You are the only self-pro­claimed gay mayor in all of Is­rael. Has this helped or hin­dered you in any way?

The peo­ple of Ra’anana don’t care about it. First of all, I was elected act­ing mayor by the city coun­cil with a big ma­jor­ity of the vote. Sup­port for me ranged from Meretz all the way to Bayit Ye­hudi. I got sup­port from all over, be­cause they knew I had the most ex­pe­ri­ence and the most knowl­edge of how to do things. I was elected not be­cause or in spite of be­ing gay. It was about be­ing the most pro­fes­sional and ex­pe­ri­enced.

Has be­ing gay made you a bet­ter pub­lic of­fi­cial in any way?

We’re talk­ing a lot in this cam­paign about com­mu­nity, about di­ver­sity and dif­fer­ent life­styles, dif­fer­ent be­liefs. What I un­der­stand more than ever is that you need to be more tol­er­ant of other peo­ple. We can all live in the same place, hap­pily in the same very good city. My way of life has noth­ing to do with my plans, my vi­sion for this city, my pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions, and my love for Ra’anana. I’m liv­ing my life, with my fam­ily, and do­ing my job like every­one else.

Do you want to be mayor of Ra’anana for the rest of your life, or do you have some other long-term plans?

Lis­ten, I am liv­ing the dream! I am the cur­rent mayor, and I want to be the next mayor. I don’t have any other dream right now.

Fi­nal ques­tion: Every­one has a ‘se­cret self,’ where he or she lives a fan­tasy life. What do you do in your fan­tasy life?

I am liv­ing my fan­tasy life, at least what my fan­tasy life has been as an adult. When I was a small child, I wanted to be a ma­gi­cian. But what I’m do­ing now is what I have dreamed of do­ing for a long time. I’ve al­ways been at­tracted to pub­lic ser­vice, but I have had the fan­tasy of be­ing a singer. I love mu­sic very much, and I used to sing. But life takes us in other direc­tions. So my fan­tasy to­day is to be mayor of Ra’anana.

(Guy Arditi)

‘WHEN ALL of my friends left [Ra’anana] to do dif­fer­ent things, I stayed be­cause I re­ally love this city – and I love pub­lic ser­vice.’

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