Beit Shemesh mayoral candidate Eli Cohen adjured a poorly attended rally Monday night that the only way to defeat “extremism” in the city was to ensure mass turnout in the upcoming repeat municipal elections.
“Only if all of us, all the residents of Beit Shemesh, will come and vote will we be able to defeat the extremism that has taken control of the city,” said Cohen to the crowd of several hundred city residents.
The repeat elections are now scheduled for March 11, after the Supreme Court last week refused to overrule an earlier Jerusalem District Court decision that said that the municipal elections of October were invalid due to evidence of systematic fraud.
“Last week, you, we and the entire Jewish people defeated falsehood and deceit and got a second opportunity to win through truth and integrity,” said Cohen, urging his supporters to get out and vote on election day.
Such is the communal balance in the city that the election will likely hinge on the ability of either side to sufficiently motivate their respective constituencies.
However, the turnout to Monday’s rally was significantly smaller than the previous demonstrations staged in protest at what was then suspected electoral fraud, before the courts called for a new election.
And several national politicians, including Bayit Yehudi chairman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon of Likud, took to the podium to urge the residents of Beit Shemesh to vote on election day.
“No one has the right not to go to the polling stations, no one has the right not to bring their friends and family out to vote as well, said Bennett, whose party officially endorsed Cohen’s campaign in the original elections as well as the repeat poll.
The Bayit Yehudi leader called for “a revolution of tolerance” in the city, and said that Beit Shemesh should be “a sanctification of God’s name, not a desecration, a place of spreading the light, not a place of fraud.”
Ariel referenced one of the most contentious issues in the city, that of housing construction for different communal sectors.
Non-ultra-Orthodox politicians, activists and residents have in recent years alleged that large-scale housing projects in the city have frequently been purpose-built for the haredi community that has totally changed the communal make-up of the city.
“Eli Cohen will bring about the best possible Beit Shemesh, a city for all, in which there will be no chance that the Housing Ministry and the mayor will not build for everyone,” said Ariel.
“All of the communities here can live together in the same place. Our children need to stay in Beit Shemesh, whether they wear knitted yarmulkes, black yarmulkes, or none at all,” he continued, while repeating the importance of getting out to vote, to ensure a Cohen victory.