It’s about character

This is my second municipal campaign, but in this one my naiveté and innocence have long faded. I have seen a lot.

October 25, 2018 18:34
3 minute read.
Jerusalem mayoral candidate Zeev Elkin, September 16, 2018

Jerusalem mayoral candidate Zeev Elkin, September 16, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The first time I met Ze’ev Elkin I asked him a simple question: Why would a senior government minister, in charge of two ministries no less, a security cabinet member and a confidant of the prime minister, want to become the mayor of Jerusalem?

We all know of mayors who dream of becoming government ministers. Until this point, however, I had never met any national political leader who, all but ensured of a great position in the next election, wanted to do things in reverse.

Elkin gave me a compelling answer that had me decide, then and there, that I would join his ticket.

“Firstly,” he said, “Jerusalem, the capital of our nation, is more significant for our country and our people than any ministry in the government. Secondly, what happens in Jerusalem will determine the future of the State of Israel in the next 20 years, as the future demography of the country will mirror that of Jerusalem today. And, thirdly, because I know I can do it.”

Up until that moment I had been wholly uninspired by the candidates who had thrown their hat in the ring. I knew and had worked with all of them. For me, having someone of Elkin’s caliber as mayor of Jerusalem was an exciting prospect.

Having grown up in a political home with a father who was not just respected in Gibraltar but was also truly loved – even by those who didn’t vote for him, having high expectations and standards for the character of a politician is hard to shake off. The two most important traits that he had were honesty and humility, and those are the exact qualities I found in Elkin.

In this social media era where style often trumps substance, and people measure themselves by clicks and shares, Elkin is a rare product. He is known by all – in the coalition and opposition alike – as one whose word is his word. The substance of Elkin is indeed his style. Piv v’libo shavin – he says what he means, and he means what he says, and he speaks truth, even if our views sometimes differ.

Among those who agree with this assessment are [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, MKs [Naftali] Bennet and [Ayelet] Shaked, Jerusalem Mayor [Nir] Barkat, Natan Sharansky and so many other political, civic and cultural leaders.

This is my second municipal campaign, but in this one my naiveté and innocence have long faded. I have seen a lot. I experienced a Yerushalmim party coup by Rachel Azaria, only to watch her abortive mayoral run flail and fail and, in the end, extend her explicit support to Elkin and me.

I have seen posters calling Elkin a traitor because he has people “like me” on his list. We have seen people in the Lion camp screaming, “Elkin, go home” to his face, with similarly unsavory characters writing on my Facebook wall that I should “go back to Gibraltar.” Elkin’s party is the party of olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel) and in this campaign we have seen Jews telling other Jews in the State of Israel to “go back from where you came from.”

I have seen text messages of a competing candidate – sent out to thousands of people – comparing Elkin to Gargamel, the evil character in the Smurfs, a caricature both obscene and laden with terrible allusions. We hope that this phenomenon – even if rooted in utter cluelessness – of Jews in the State of Israel employing antisemitic chants and tropes against their own, ends.

And in the middle of all this madness is a quiet man who knows his worth, knows his calling, and simply wants to get on with the job. In the last few months I have been privileged to witness true leadership and character. Elkin is an extraordinary gentleman, a visionary leader, and a man ready to roll up his sleeves and do what needs to be done. Jerusalem is in safe hands!

The writer is a Jerusalem city council member and No. 2 of mayoral candidate Ze’ev Elkin.

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