More than words

Lion should understand that a mayor whose reputation is based on his respect and gentleness should avoid the types of words and behaviors that risk returning the atmosphere to the bad old days.

By
April 4, 2019 16:04
2 minute read.
Jewish calendar

A post on Hitorerut’s Facebook page describes its reaction to the events at the city council meeting. (Left to right): Hitorerut city councillors Elad Malka, Dan Illouz, movement leader Ofer Berkovitch, Einav Bar-Cohen, Yamit Yoeli-Ella and Aliza Arens. (photo credit: Courtesy)

At Jerusalem’s monthly city council meetings, the 30 council members discuss and vote on the items on the agenda, and opposition has an opportunity to present requests, proposals and motions and make remarks. The March city council meeting for was held, as usual, on the last Thursday of the month.

The atmosphere at city council meetings under mayor Ehud Olmert some 20 years ago was characterized by aggressive and insulting speech. Shutting off the microphones of opposition members was fairly routine, and during mayor Nir Barkat’s second tenure, this also occurred also more than once. Given his reputation as a man of dialogue and gentle manners, no one expected this to happen under Mayor Moshe Lion, but, surprisingly, last week it did.

Throughout the session, Lion remained calm, perhaps too calm, displaying little interest in the speeches of opposition members. Ofer Berkovitch, Einav Bar-Cohen and Elad Malka of Hitorerut spoke with animation about such issues as the cost of planned renovations for the mayor’s office; the need for a legal adviser for the opposition members; the request to have more opposition representatives at the local planning and construction committee; and the plight of drivers of tourist buses, who get tickets when they stop to let passengers board or disembark.

When drivers in the hall began to applaud Bar-Cohen for her speech, Vice Mayor Elisha Peleg shouted into his microphone, “I suggest that next time you bring a group of (female) cheerers; then at least we’ll have something interesting to look at.” Lion then cut off Bar-Cohen in the middle of her speech and simply said, “You are boring me.”

The two remarks almost brought Bar-Cohen to tears and angered the opposition benches and the public. Bar-Cohen afterward wrote in Facebook that she felt ashamed as a woman and as a representative by the words of these two men.

The tourist bus issue is a serious one. Jerusalem needs tourists and bus drivers work hard to make the experience of visitors as pleasant as possible. The last thing they need is to be hunted by supervisors who ignore the difficulty of their task and issue tickets (NIS 250 each!), causing many drivers to refuse to work in Jerusalem.

“We try to make an honest living,” explained Ashraf, a driver. “We should have access to decent convenient parking, but the city doesn’t provide it. As some of the tourists are elderly and handicapped, it often takes groups several minutes to get on or off the bus. Why must this end every time with a ticket? Are we a source of income for the city or citizens who are simply doing their jobs?”

Berkovitch found the mayor’s refusal to debate the issue at the council meeting particularly inappropriate, since he wasn’t blaming Lion for the situation, which has been a problem for many years, but was just trying to bring it to the attention of the council.

“So what if we are the opposition? Does that mean that whatever we say is not acceptable?”

Lion should understand that a mayor whose reputation is based on his respect, gentleness and negotiating skills should avoid the types of words and behaviors that risk returning the atmosphere at council meetings to the bad old days.


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