Who to vote for? TA candidates present to olim

Some 200 new immigrants packed Kanta bar to hear City Hall candidates’ platforms.

By
October 25, 2018 14:51
Immigrants hear Tel Aviv mayoral candidates at the city's Kanta bar

Immigrants hear Tel Aviv mayoral candidates at the city's Kanta bar. (photo credit: JAY ROSEN)

Many new immigrants are confused about who to vote for in the upcoming local elections, due to their subpar Hebrew and a lack of information in other languages.

But the packed Kanta bar – just by Tel Aviv’s City Hall – on Tuesday night indicated a thirst for knowledge and desire to make informed decisions at the ballot box next week.

Organized by the Here and There Club and Kol Oleh, the event saw representatives of 10 municipal parties presenting their platforms to some 200 olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel), and answering questions.

Mayoral candidate Assaf Harel, who leads the We Are the City list, was the only party leader who participated in the event. The representative of Asaf Zamir’s Rov Ha’ir party, Rachel Schonwald, apologized that he was not there himself, saying that he had a prior engagement.

The event featured 10 representatives of municipal parties who introduced themselves to olim. These included: Vika Kanar of Olim Beyachad (Immigrants Together), Lior Shapira of Mayor Ron Huldai’s party Tel Aviv 1, Hagar Ben-Shlomo of Ir Yeruka (Green City), Shanna Orlik of Mekomi b’Tel Aviv, Gabi Laski of Meretz Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Marina Smolyanov of Ichud (Unity) Tel Aviv, Mickael Ben Shoshan of Ma’aminim (Believers), Noah Ephron of HaReshima HaTelavivit (the Tel Aviv list), Schonwald and Harel.

Each representative was given four minutes to present their platform.

Olim Beyachad (Olim Together) naturally focuses on immigrants.

“Many olim feel left out,” said Kanar, saying that language barriers can lead to the feeling of being “half blind or half deaf.” Kanar said her party seeks to make Tel Aviv more accessible to immigrants, from business and social aspects. The party said it wants to be a voice for olim in Tel Aviv and help them integrate into the local community, make municipal services more accessible, and assist olim to nab high-level jobs in their professions.

Ichud Tel Aviv's Smolyanov presented similar goals, also striving to serve as a voice for olim. “We have practical solutions which don’t require a lot of budget,” she said, mentioning the party’s “Adopt an Oleh” project, which envisions native Israelis helping new immigrants to integrate into life in Tel Aviv. Like Kanar, she also mentioned helping immigrants navigate bureaucracy in the city. One day a month, the party proposes that municipal services will be dedicated to assisting olim with bureaucratic processes. Another major focus of the party is to unite different communities in Tel Aviv, and it proposes using community buildings for weekend events, such as Shabbat dinners.

Ma’aminim’s Ben-Shoshan also focused on olim, speaking of the need for immigrants to unite to become a force. Russian immigrants, he pointed out, many of whom moved to Israel many years ago, “have established themselves,” and have representation in the government.

“But where are the rest of us?” he asked. Ben-Shoshan also spoke of the need for better infrastructure for learning Hebrew and better representation and assistance at local government level.

Mekomi b’Tel Aviv
, Orlik said, is a grassroots movement of young people who believe they need better representation at the municipality.

“After seeing the same questions and complaints over and over again on Secret Tel Aviv, we decided it’s time for change,” she said. She listed housing, culture, transport and sustainability as the party’s main topics of focus.

“The average age of city council members is 55. We [young people] have no representation but we are a third of a city,” Orlik said in reference to the statistic that 30% of Tel Aviv’s population is in the 20-35 age bracket.

“So our first thing is representation,” she said. The party, Orlik said, works with all types of communities including students, entrepreneurs, artists, bikers, and tenants.  

Tel Aviv 1's Shapira pointed to party leader Huldai’s achievements to date. Tel Aviv, he said, didn’t become what it is overnight.

“Someone worked to make the city this way. If you’re happy with the way the city is,” he continued, voters should continue to support Tel Aviv 1. Addressing olim specifically, Shapira noted that more olim move to Tel Aviv than to any other Israeli city. “We tripled the budget for olim services and will do more to keep olim here,” he asserted, noting a plan to create a hub for new immigrants next year.

Rov Ha’ir’s Schonwald took a direct jab at Huldai’s party, saying, “We can’t just say everything is okay, let’s keep doing things as is – we need to constantly improve things.” She also criticized Huldai’s party for shifting responsibility by blaming the national government for the city’s problems: “We must work to change things.” Party leader Zamir has served as deputy mayor for 10 years and his party seeks “to move forward with the proposals that the current mayor won’t promote; to tackle the issues that have been stuck on his desk for years.”

Ir Yeruka's Ben-Shlomo said: “We are a party of environmental activists and we want to bring that activism to inside City Hall.” In reference to data presented by the Environmental Protection Ministry in 2017 that said 1,000 people die every year from vehicle-caused air pollution, Ben-Shlomo said there is a need for a municipal plan for pollution management, particularly from transportation. Other issues she mentioned included improving bike lanes, putting an end to dumped sewage in the sea, affordable housing, and an increase in garbage cans which she said do not exist on the streets of certain neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv.

“Whenever we came to the municipality the door was closed in our faces,” she charged.

Meretz Tel Aviv’s Lasky told the crowd “we are lefties and proud.” For example, in reference to Culture Minister Miri Regev’s controversial Loyalty Bill, she said that if the national government wants to ban certain artists from performing, Tel Aviv should be taking an active stand to support them. If there are national obstacles to housing development, she continued, Tel Aviv needs to take a stand and build more affordable housing. She also mentioned allowing for pluralistic approaches to education and ceremonies, including civil weddings, in the city.

“Choose us for a free, pluralistic Tel Aviv,” Lasky said.
 
HaReshima HaTelAvivit’s Ephron said the city “deserves a better government than we got.”
 
“The current system of local politics is broken,” he said, accusing the mayor of buying support from coalition partners. “Transparency is a joke,” he said, mentioning a legal battle he fought and won in 2010 to have City Hall publish its budget in Excel-style to allow the public to analyze it.
 
“Transport is a joke,” he continued. “Sidewalks are battle zones, some schools are great while others are terrible, there is high rent, there are not enough street lights in south Tel Aviv, and human trafficking thrives in certain neighborhoods. Why is there this gap between the street and our leaders? Enough is enough. We don’t want the posh offices of deputy mayor, we want to bring down the high wall.”

Hareshima HaTelAvivit'sLasky told the crowd “we are lefties and proud.” For example, in reference to Culture Minister Miri Regev’s controversial Loyalty Bill, she said that if the national government wants to ban certain artists from performing, Tel Aviv should be taking an active stand to support them. If there are national obstacles to housing development, she continued, Tel Aviv needs to take a stand and build more affordable housing. She also mentioned allowing for pluralistic approaches to education and ceremonies, including civil weddings, in the city.

“Choose us for a free, pluralistic Tel Aviv,” Lasky said.

HaReshima HaTelAvivit’s Ephron said the city “deserves a better government than we got.”

“The current system of local politics is broken,” he said, accusing the mayor of buying support from coalition partners. “Transparency is a joke,” he said, mentioning a legal battle he fought and won in 2010 to have City Hall publish its budget in Excel-style to allow the public to analyze it.

“Transport is a joke,” he continued. “Sidewalks are battle zones, some schools are great while others are terrible, there is high rent, there are not enough street lights in south Tel Aviv, and human trafficking thrives in certain neighborhoods. Why is there this gap between the street and our leaders? Enough is enough. We don’t want the posh offices of deputy mayor, we want to bring down the high wall.”


HaReshima HaTelAvivit, Ephron vowed, will fight for residents, emphasizing the importance of strong public participation in decision-making.

Anachnu Ha’ir (We Are the City) leader and mayoral candidate Harel, who spoke last, noted that he hadn’t heard the word “Israel” mentioned by the other speakers.
 
“Israel is on a complicated path,” Harel said. “I think most Tel Avivians are worried about it and I don’t see Tel Aviv taking a stand. I want to make a deep change in terms of the way this city sees itself in terms of Israel,” Harel said.
 
Instead of being a bubble, he said, Tel Aviv should lead by example. For instance, Tel Aviv’s response to the Nation-State Law should be to increase the use of Arabic in the city and have it taught in every school in the city, Harel said.
 
“This is only part of Tel Aviv,” he said of the event’s location in the city center. “There is another part that nobody sees or talks about.” Harel stressed the need for City Hall to first and foremost invest in south Tel Aviv, Jaffa and in the city’s minorities.
 
One of the organizers of the event, Here and There Club founder Jay Rosen, told The Jerusalem Post that he was “heartened by the outpouring of interest in this event, which speaks to immigrants who both choose Tel Aviv-Jaffa as their home and want to become more ingrained into Israeli society by accessing information they otherwise could easily find on their own in their countries of origin.”
 
“We hope this event encourages more immigrants to find their respective voices in Israeli society by demanding access, and for higher transparency and accountability from local politicians seeking to represent them,” he added.


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