With municipal elections three weeks away, campaigns are shooting in all directions to win votes as the date nears, and content is becoming more and more controversial.
An allegedly satirical video published by the Atid party in Ashdod on Monday presents a secular man with a Russian accent, clearly aimed at olim from the former Soviet Union as most likely voters for the party, who decides to sleep in on the day of elections and give up on his vote.
The video then continues to show, in a dream-like way, what would happen if all secular residents chose to do the same and envisions an extremist haredi town with absurd new laws.
The video includes crude allusions to various classic haredi lore - scheming to make everyone religious, separating men and women in public places, holes in the sheets for halachic
matrimony, as per the famous legend, crying "oy, toevah
" ("abomination") when seeing a woman in shorts, etc.
The video illustrates a seemingly hellish day in the life of Ashdod citizen Alex in the event of haredi leadership in the city. The main character wakes up to find a haredi man in his kitchen telling him he's there to turn him religious, then sees his son with black suit, hat and tzitziot
, claiming this is the new school uniform.
The electricity shuts off because they didn't kiss the mezzuzah, and when the exasperated Alex leaves the house and tries to go shopping, he finds that the store selling pork has been closed and the only shops available are haredi-approved... and he can only shop at male-only ones.
When the desperate Alex cries out, "Oh God," he's immediately fined 2,000 NIS for saying the name in vain. Dejected, he returns home, only to find the TV and phone service are disconnected for Shabbat.
At this point, Atid chairman Eli Nacht appears on screen saying, "If you're not going to choose, others will make the choice for you."
The video caused an immediate uproar on social media and Nacht and his party were accused of hateful propaganda and even antisemitic tones in the video.
Nacht replied to the criticism in defiance, saying, "The problem here in Ashdod and everywhere in the country is that the secular community doesn't vote."
"Our goal is to get people out of their indifference. This is simply a satirical video with a clear message that has a hold on reality," claimed Nacht.
"...Many of my opponents... say it is an antisemitic video. This is libel and far from the truth, and anyone with eyes in their head can understand what this is about."
Yehiel Lasri, the candidate in the Ashdod elections considered most closely affiliated with the haredi population in the city, said, "I swear it: we will not put the city leadership in the hands of inciters and irresponsible [people] who increase hate among brothers. Not on my watch."
The video went viral. Some found the video hilarious, others felt it speaks of a true threat and encourages political action.
"Ashdodim, just go vote. Because today it's a funny video and tomorrow it's a documentary," reads one of the comments.
"Gross video," reads a different comment, "I wonder how they would feel if such a video was made full of stereotypes of the Russian community."
The post was not the only anti-religious propaganda seen in these elections.
On Sunday, the Yesh Atid mayoral candidate in Holon issued a similar video
, claiming that while "you" - i.e. the secular community - rest and go to the beach, "they", the haredim, will be voting en masse.
On Tuesday, Gennady Borshevsky of Petah Tikva issued a campaign poster that bears a warning at the bottom: "Note: Secular lists contain hidden religious candidates."
Twitter user Ariel Shnabel uploaded the poster and said, "We're hiding because we live in Petah Tikva, not because we're religious."
Municipal elections are scheduled for October 30 where a first time nationwide day off will be called in an attempt to promote voting.
Municipal voting is a volatile issues in cities like Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Tel Aviv, where internal power struggles indicate that the outcomes might not be as binary as usual
this time around.
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