Queen of the national religious

An encounter with Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe

Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hagit Moshe, deputy mayor and head of the municipal Finance Committee, is the president of the Jerusalem branch of the Bayit Yehudi and the leader of the party at city council. While not a candidate for mayor, she is deeply involved in gathering all the national religious residents in the city behind her, aiming to present as large a list as possible that will include the different parts of this sector.
According to several findings, they represent about 18% of the Jewish population (compared to the 39% of the haredim) but they are spread among various – sometimes almost opposing – sides, between modern Orthodox (many of them located on the left side of the political map) “light religious” (including former religious – called datlashim) and right-wingers identified with the settlement movement. Moshe wants them all in her nest, arguing people in this religious segment have something different to say and to promote in this city.
But so far, things haven’t been going as well as hoped. One recent occurrence embarrassed Moshe – leading to intervention from party MKs and the firing of Moshe’s campaigner. A flyer was released (also a banner on social media) in which three of the leading non-haredi candidates, Ofer Berkovitch, Moshe Lion and Ze’ev Elkin, were portrayed as haredim (with peyot and shtreimels) as a warning that they would “sell out” the national-religious interests to the ultra-Orthodox once elected. Repercussions and recriminations followed rapidly.
In her office on the fifth floor of Safra Square, Moshe tries to minimize the incident, hinting that it was just a draft idea that was published by mistake, but admits that the fear that it depicted is real.
“It was a mistake and I talked with haredim at the council, but I also want to say that it conveys something true. If we do not wake up and work hard to achieve a significant representation of the national religious at the next council, we will wake up late to find out that our interests are not on the agenda no matter who the mayor is. That is what I am fighting for.”
Five years ago, a split (between the National Union and the National Religious Party) led Education Minister Naftali Bennett to choose the members of the list himself, ignoring the recommendations of the local branch.
“We went to court, won, and joined Arieh King, who represents Jewish residents in Arab neighborhoods,” explains Moshe, “but while we were fighting among ourselves, other factors rose and led different parts of this sector.”
Asked whether that diversity of opinions in the heterogenic sector she represents is not an intrinsic part of the political reality, Moshe replies, “Beyond all these differences, we share the same needs. If we do not have strong representation at city council, who will provide us the religious kindergartens, schools and culture that we want and need?”
Asked which of the nine candidates she will recommend that her voters support, she says it is too early to specify.