As Ra’anana residents go to the poll for the municipal elections on Tuesday, one of the candidates in the mayoral race is a familiar face: former mayor Ze’ev Bielski.
First elected in 1989 and subsequently reelected three times, Bielski has been one of the most popular mayors in the country, earning the title of “Israel’s favorite mayor” from Yediot Aharonot in 2005.
Bielski, 64, a former major in the IDF and a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, had told The Jerusalem Post in an interview last month that he had “loved every day” of being mayor for 17 years.
After heading the Jewish Agency in 2005 and a short time with Kadima in the Knesset, Bielski said his heart told him to go back to Ra’anana.
“I know every stone in Ra’anana, I know every tree, I know every kindergarten, I know every school. I built a lot. I was involved in many things, and it made me very happy,” he said.
While campaigning for a fifth, non-consecutive term, Bielski promised to “do exactly what [he] did before.”
“When you say, ‘Ze’ev Bielski,’ you say open door, open telephone, 24 hours at the service of the people,” he explained.
“Every letter to the mayor will be answered within 24 hours personally by me. I read all the letters that come. I answer them personally, I see that things will be done. I speak with people.”
As for his plans for Ra’anana if elected, they include cutting unnecessary expenses, making “the necessary changes to stabilize the financial situation” and pushing to bring more businesses to the city.
One of Bielski’s opponents in the race – aside from Mayor Nahum Hofree – Eitan Glick, writes on his campaign website that he has the “ability and experience to turn Ra’anana from a struggling city bogged down and without direction to a progressive city, managed professionally, that seeks to achieve the spirit of the 21st century.”
Glick promises to “brand” Ra’anana as a modern city, “dynamic and attractive to a mixed range and age of residents” and turn the industrial zone of the into a center of entertainment and music for the Sharon area, in a short period of time, which he says will “upgrade the sleepy Ahuza Street, and fill up the empty city coffers.”
Candidates for the mayoral race are all making sure to appeal to the significant Anglo community that characterize the city, by translating all announcements on their facebook page or website to English.
About 102 polling stations, 12 of which are accessible to people with limited mobility, were installed throughout the city for Tuesday.
Following an agreement reached with Education Ministry, schools will remain closed on election day, as some 75 percent of the polling stations will be placed in the city’s educational institutions.
The Ra’anana Municipality announced however that it will offer activities including sports, art and music for elementary school children starting at 8:00 a.m. free of charge. Kindergartens will function as usual.
The city has placed blue recycling bins at the polling stations in order to collect and recycle the many paper materials distributed to voters on election day.
Sam Sokol contributed to this report.
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