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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Deputy mayor Maria (Masha) Novikov's defining moment was the terrorist attack in which she was severely wounded. In 2004, at the tail end of the second intifada, the Israel Beiteinu councillor - one of six deputies to Mayor Nir Barkat - was traveling on bus No. 19 when a suicide bomber blew himself up less than two meters away from her.
"I don't remember anything, not even the explosion itself - probably as a means to save myself from the trauma" recalls the 40-year-old mother of three. Although some years have passed since then and Novikov leads an active life, she says "the memories and shock are always present."
Despite suffering severe injuries, the Russian-born Novikov decided to leave the hospital as soon as possible and to continue with her rehabilitation program at home. "I couldn't get any rest. All day long we were feeling crushed under the endless chain of politicians and other personages who came to visit us, accompanied by the media. I just couldn't stand it anymore," says the former high-school computer teacher, who made aliya 20 years ago.
The terrorist attack resulted in 11 dead and some 40 wounded. Later on, the destroyed bus was taken by local associations to be presented near the international court at The Hague, and from there on an extensive tour of the United States to show what it meant for Israelis citizens to live under the terror attacks of the intifada.
One of Novikov's better memories from those awful days was the visit that Nir Barkat, then head of the opposition at city hall, paid her at the hospital. "I didn't know him personally, but the fact that he cared and came to visit the wounded impressed me a lot," she says.
After the attack Novikov became more active in Israel Beiteinu, eventually assuming the position of chair of the party's local chapter. When Israel Beiteinu decided to run for the 2008 municipal elections, Novikov was asked by party leader Avigdor Lieberman to head the local party that ran as Yerushalayim Beiteinu. In the wake of Barkat's victory, Yerushalayim Beiteinu joined the coalition, catapulting Novikov to the sixth floor at Kikar Safra.
Novikov holds the portfolio of aliya and absorption affairs for the capital and is deputy head of the municipal tourism committee, headed by city council member Hilik Bar.
Novikov admits that she would have been more than glad to be in charge of education issues. "As a teacher, I am very involved in matters of education, especially regarding the case of the Mofet learning programs we want to include in some elementary schools in the city."
Nevertheless, Novikov is quick to explain that encouraging more olim from all over the world to come to Israel, as well as encouraging an increase in tourism, especially from Eastern Europe, is "more than enough for one person."
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