Not so long ago Amos Mar-Haim was still considered a serious potential successor to Teddy Kollek. A veteran of the Labor Party, a close assistant to Kollek and later his deputy as mayor, Mar-Haim also had good relations with the haredi courts in the city, which granted him fair chances as a successful candidate. But ultimately he decided not to step into Kollek's big shoes in 1993, when Ehud Olmert became mayor, and the rest is history. Unlike other real or virtual candidates, however, Mar-Haim didn't disappear from the public scene. Time and again his name has been raised as a contender to both Olmert and Mayor Uri Lupolianski, but it never reached the operative point. Nevertheless, the man who was appointed mayor of Bnei Brak by the Interior Ministry in the '80s, and who is and has been board member of a long list of financial and cultural bodies, is still concerned by the political fate of the city. In 1998, Mar-Haim was fined NIS 1 million and sentenced to six months' community service and a three-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to tax evasion. He paid the fine, as well as the unpaid taxes without argument. A couple of weeks ago, as a guest of a Labor Party meeting in Jerusalem, he presented a gloomy picture of the situation ahead of the next elections, and stressed his commitment to find "the right person to save the city." Realistically, Mar-Haim, 68, said, the chances that this redeeming candidate would enjoy the party's support were "slim, very very slim," nonetheless, he added, he wouldn't give up. So why do we always hear about Jerusalem being a "lost cause"? Jerusalem has a few difficulties and one big problem: jobs. What we have mostly here are administrations, academy, education, religion - these are not fields in which people make money. We do not have here technology industries, and while some pharmaceutical industries came in - like Teva and Protalis - Tnuva, one of the veterans, has left Jerusalem recently. So the situation is not brilliant, but it is better than its public image. What else is not working right? They say Jerusalem is becoming "haredi." As a resident, I don't see it that way. Haredim were always here; it's not something new. I can tell you that my options for a full cultural life are much better today than years ago. Still, this is a city of more than 700,000 residents, and not everyone is going to get along. But I absolutely think that Jerusalem today is a much more open and friendly city than it was 30 years ago. So where does this negative image come from? Because nobody here cares enough to invest in the city's image. Take, for example, tourism. For a few years, we had almost no tourists here, so the image of a city that does not attract visitors was strong. Today the streets are filled with tourists, and you can't find a hotel room. This should be the time for publicists to improve the image of the city, but for reasons I cannot explain, this is not happening. So what are you saying, that it's all PR? Not only. For example, the poverty here is very real. And young people are indeed leaving the city, although it is important to note that as many haredim, including young couples, are leaving the city as secular. And we all know why: Unless you are a rich Jew from abroad, it is unlikely that you can afford to buy an apartment here. And of course there is the usual complaint about the dirty streets. Although I am not completely in agreement with the complaint, I agree that it could be better. So in your view nothing is done to keep the young here? No, I wouldn't say that. Look at what has happened in the city center. Since a decision was made to attract young residents back to the city center, and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design's architecture department was restored to the school's original location downtown, the city center has seen significant change and today is radically different from what it was a few years ago. So it proves that this is not a mission impossible; we only need decisions to be made and implemented. And what else? Culture. Culture, culture and again culture. And now that the door for the new culture authority seems open, I hope things will move ahead. Budgets will come, and the situation of the cultural institutions will improve. You cannot ask young people to live in a place that cannot offer them a real cultural life. Without judging this mayor's achievement, do you think that a haredi mayor is good or bad for Jerusalem? The question is not about being haredi. The question is whether or not the mayor is sectarian. If the mayor is haredi but considers all the residents' interests and treats them equally, there is no problem. With the secular public hardly participating in the election process, is the question superfluous? I believe those who aren't haredi didn't vote because they felt they didn't have for whom to vote. It is not an issue of indifference, it is an issue of lack of leadership. What we need here is a movement, something that will gather people around a project, a shared vision. It is far beyond political issues or belongings. Teddy Kollek, whom I served as deputy mayor, was identified with the Labor Party, but the list he created here was a "home" for people who otherwise didn't vote for Labor in the Knesset. He gave them something that united them around Jerusalem, and this is exactly what we need here, more than ever. Today, the problem is that people who could be candidates are not interested at all in the municipal field. I am very busy trying to find such a person; I am sure we will finally have a good candidate for Jerusalem. When you say we, do you mean the Labor Party in Jerusalem? Yes, but by the way, the other large parties are in the same situation. In any case, what should be absolutely avoided for the next elections is the foolish situation in which the residents will face more than one candidate to represent the secular public and none for the haredi public. Lately, there has been talk of Aryeh Deri running. You know him personally, what is your position? Deri could be a good candidate. He was an astonishingly good minister and director-general of the Interior Ministry, and he really cares about Jerusalem. He is also a very gifted person. But when it comes down to it, you will find that he is also a very sectarian candidate. So? I am still looking; I do not lose hope.

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