JERUSALEM MAYORAL candidate Avi Salman.
(photo credit: ILAN AMOUYAL)
Candidate Avi Salman has remained, for many, a kind of enigma. The young lawyer, once a close assistant to Mayor Nir Barkat and today a loud critic of the way he handles municipal issues, is not religious – yet he has gathered around him a few rabbis. He is young – 36 – and he is the only candidate who has included a disabled woman in his list (No. 3). Most of the polls do not give him more than 4% to 6% of the votes, but he has refused so far to withdraw from the race or to join another candidate.
On Tuesday afternoon, Salman revealed his major associates and presented his program to his supporters and the local press. Rabbi Josef Wasserman, chairman of the IDF veterans, who is also the rabbi of the Romanian community in Israel and a former paratrooper rabbi, is No. 2 on the list. Wasserman is also an active member of the Israeli Council for Seniors (and retired persons in general) and as such, brings to Salman the support of about 60,000 seniors in his organization. The combination of a young politician, a large association representing the seniors in the community and a representative of the disabled persons in the city forms a very different list than all other candidates have presented so far.
But there is more. Salman and his family are among the core of the Likud party, especially in its branch in Jerusalem. “When you say Likud Jerusalem, you say Salman family,” says one of the supporters present at this meeting.
When asked the question how does it work, that the Likud members in the city are in fact divided between at least two candidates – perhaps even three (since a large part of candidate Moshe Lion’s aim is towards Likud voters in the city) – came Wasserman’s answer: “Avi Salman is not a visitor here, he was born in Jerusalem, grew up here and has lived here all his life,” hinting at Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is a member of the same party, but considered by many as an “outsider” in the city.
Simha Benisti, No. 3 on Salman’s list, is a severely disabled woman, confined for years to an orthopedic bed on wheels. She is a veteran of the struggle for disabled persons and their needs. She has led a large number of demonstrations for bettering the conditions of the disabled community and their special needs. However, until now, she has not been involved in politics. Benisti said that, while she still brings the issues she stands for to the Knesset through all the parties ready to listen, she believes that for the cause of the retired and the disabled in Jerusalem, there is no better way than through politics to reach the council.
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