Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul has been seeking to burnish his credentials
with the English-speaking community by improving Anglo access to the city
During a recent meeting with several members of the Anglo
community, Abutbul announced that he plans to create an Anglo Department within
the Beit Shemesh Municipal Council to help facilitate relations between the
English-speaking community and the different municipal departments.
Anglo Department is to be staffed by two people, one full-time and one
part-time, who are to be members of the English-speaking community from the
The mayor announced that Dr. Efraim Rosenbaum, originally from
Boston, Massachusetts, is to serve as his Special Advisor for Anglo
The series of initiatives that the mayor signed was termed the
Anglo Accessibility and Amenities Agreement.
Rosenbaum told The Jerusalem
Post that the purpose of the agreement was to provide a direct avenue for
Anglos, who he said may be less aware of the different municipal services on
offer, to the municipal administration and its various branches.
that the fruits of this agreement could already be seen, with Abutbul agreeing
on Monday to provide funds for the Benjamin Library in the city, containing
mostly English-language books, to remain open until at least till the end of the
Rosenbaum, who describes himself as ultra-Orthodox, said he
believed that significant numbers of Beit Shemesh’s English-speaking residents
would vote for Abutbul in the elections, and that the community was almost
evenly split in its support for the mayor, or rival candidate Eli
Abutbul’s image has been badly tarnished by haredi extremism in
the city, but Rosenbaum, a specialist in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and a
resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef, said he believed the Anglo community would
be able to see that the number of violent incidents carried out by radical
ultra-Orthodox groups was decreasing and that the police responded quickly and
effectively to such events.
In addition to his Anglo outreach activities,
Abutbul has been shoring up haredi support by visiting the major rabbinical
leaders of the haredi world.
On Sunday, the Beit Shemesh mayor paid a
visit to the home of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the leading rabbi of the
Ashkenazi non-hassidic haredi world, to get formal endorsement for his
Abutbul received a blessing from Shteinman who also wished him
luck for the elections. The rabbi has previously said that it would be a
desecration of God’s name if a secular candidate is elected
According to a press statement from Abutbul’s campaign staff,
Shteinman said on Sunday that everything possible must be done to ensure Beit
Shemesh’s future as a place where “Torah and acts of kindness are
Abutbul visited Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, another senior haredi
figure, who was updated on the mayor’s efforts to increase the construction of
residential housing in the city, “despite efforts of the previous municipal
council to halt construction.”
In addition, Abutbul went to see Rabbi
Haim Kanievsky, another of the leading haredi rabbinical figures in the country,
who was informed that his rival “does not observe Shabbat and the commandments,”
and plans to address the needs of non-religious people in Beit Shemesh seeking
leisure activities on Shabbat.
Kanievsky reportedly said of mayoral
candidate Eli Cohen, “There is nothing to fear from him, he will inherit a great
Zvi Wolicki, Cohen’s campaign manager said that Kanievsky had
been misinformed by Abutbul’s associates and that Cohen has merely said he will
cooperate with the neighboring Mateh Yehuda Regional Council where various
leisure activities are available on Shabbat and festivals.
that Cohen’s policy is to oppose publicly funded leisure activities on
In another related development, Beit Shemesh residents have
received flyers through their doors in recent days, alleging that Cohen has
promised to provide public transport solutions for secular Beit Shemesh
residents on Shabbat and holidays.
“Make no mistake about it: Eli Cohen’s
mission is a secular Beit Shemesh,” reads the flyer, published by the “Citizens
for Beit Shemesh with Jewish Core Values,” a hitherto unknown
Wolicki said categorically that Cohen will not permit public
transport to run on Shabbat in Beit Shemesh, and that this claim along with
those regarding leisure activities were “scare mongering and a low form of
He added that he believed the flyers came, directly or
indirectly, from Abutbul’s campaign.
Abutbul’s election staff said that
the flyer was not connected to the campaign of Mayor Moshe Abutbul and was a
“local initiative” of US immigrants.
"Behind this initiative stand new
immigrants from the US who do not view favorably the two-faced [nature] of Eli
Cohen and his coterie, who talk to one part of the city against haredi
expansion, while speaking to the haredi community of their sympathy for the
ultra-Orthodox population [of the city],” a spokesman said. “Therefore, those
behind the initiative wanted to give residents the true picture in order that
they are aware of the facts, and if someone, God forbid, was offended, he has to
check [Cohen’s] plans.”
Rosenbaum denounced the flyers, calling it
“disgusting campaigning that goes against Torah,” adding however that he
believed that similar tactics were used by the mayor’s
Wolicki also dismissed Abutbul’s outreach to the Anglo
community as “almost pathetic,” and said that the motivation of the drive was
“If there was such a need for an Anglo department then the
initiative should have been started years ago, not three weeks before the
election,” he said.
Yesh Atid MK and local resident Rabbi Dov Lipman
weighed in, saying that he believed even haredi Anglos would not vote for
Abutbul this time around.
“Last election, many haredi Anglos voted for
Abutbul. In fact, many became activists for his campaign. They now realize the
mistake – that the city is not clean, basic services have been neglected and
that he gave control to the extremist elements,” said Lipman. “The potential
exists that thousands of haredi Anglos will vote for Eli Cohen who they know
will run the city well, will be a unifying figure, and will help haredim too.”