Residents of Beit Shemesh took to the ballot box on Tuesday morning, again, in a repeat municipal election that has stoked inter-communal rivalry and bitter recriminations between haredi and non-haredi communities in the city.
The original election results were cancelled by the courts due to evidence of systematic voter fraud.
Incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul of Shas, who was victorious in the original poll, arrived in good spirits at his polling station shortly after 10:00 in the morning and talked up his achievements for all communities in Beit Shemesh.
Asked if he agreed with the comments of haredi MK Moshe Gafni, who described the election as a war of religion, Abutbul accused the non-haredi camp of starting such a war.
He said however that no attempts should be made to illegally influence the elections, describing such efforts as “contrary to Jewish law and [civil] law.”
Eli Cohen, the challenger to Abutbul’s candidacy arrived at his polling station just after 11:00 accompanied by raucous music and chants of “We’re not giving up on Beit Shemesh” and Moshe Abutbul go home!”
“This struggle in Beit Shemesh is a struggle of the entire state,” said Cohen. “Beit Shemesh can be a model for living together in this country,” he continued, saying that the city administration had to treat all communities equally in terms of services and infrastructure.
Much speculation has surrounded the possible participation of the radical anti-Zionist haredi elements in the city who have a general policy of not voting in Israeli elections on ideological grounds.
Haredi sources have indicated that several hundred, out of as many as 4,000 voters in Beit Shemesh from the anti-Zionist factions could come out and vote in today’s election, which would be a significant boost for Abutbul.