Yossi Havilio, the lone candidate

Is this the new mayor of Jerusalem?

Yossi Havilio (photo credit: PR)
Yossi Havilio
(photo credit: PR)
The long and winding road taken by advocate Yossi Havilio has brought him from the position of municipal legal adviser into conflicting situations with then-mayor Uri Lupolianski, and through a period of shared support between him and Mayor Nir Barkat – which didn’t last too long.
Today, Havilio, a very active lawyer with a private practice in the city, has become the leading opponent to Barkat and unofficially a candidate for mayor in the next election. He created a non-profit called Tzahor (“flawless white”), which represents on a pro bono basis residents and local associations in cases against municipal policies they perceive as unfair or contradicting their interests.
Among the cases Havilio has brought through Tzahor is the cleaning of the city – once the major “ticket” of Barkat and, according to Havilio, one of the mayor’s biggest failures. Also on the list are the threat to close down the “Shabus” weekend public transportation program; the struggle between the haredi and pluralistic sectors over the control of schools (Havilio supports the secular residents who feel neglected by Barkat’s policy benefiting of the haredi sector); the struggle of secular residents for the cultural needs in Kiryat Hayovel (e.g., film screenings at the community center on Shabbat, the Community Pub and the “Mifletzet” playground and park; and many additional issues.
Most recently, Havilio publicly called on Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut) to resign over allegations that Barkat is not at all taking into consideration the needs and interests of the pluralistic sector, which Berkowitz says he represents. Even CityPass, the light rail company, gets its of Havilio’s ire, with a report he presented on the impressive number of fines imposed on passengers and the lack of oversight by the municipality.
Havilio was initially brought to Safra Square in 2001 by then-mayor Ehud Olmert. He was at the time in private practice, dealing mainly with financial issues.
The tensions that existed between him, an engaged, secular resident, and Olmert’s successor, the haredi Uri Lupolianski, elected in 2003, quickly resulted in open conflict.
The arrival of Barkat in 2008 seemed, at first, like the best thing that could happen – Havilio didn’t at all hide his support for Barkat’s activism against what the two perceived had been Lupolianski’s misinterpretation of the task of legal adviser.
But the honeymoon didn’t last long. In 2011, Havilio resigned and since then has done everything to indicate that he has a clear idea about what a good mayor should do for the city and its residents.
“My vision is to see in this city in which I was born, to a family that has lived here for many generations, various communities living in peace side by side, and not one inside the other,” says Havilio, who lately has focused on preventing, including through the courts, Barkat’s plan to redistribute school buildings between the haredi and pluralistic sectors in mixed neighborhoods.
Havilio insists that a secular public figure should not, under any circumstances, betray the secular and national-religious sectors for the benefit of the haredim. He describes the policies of Barkat – who is known to have aspirations for higher office – as actions “aimed to obtain the haredi sector’s support for national elections,” something he says is not in the interest of Jerusalem’s residents.
“I strongly believe that in Jerusalem, the pluralistic sector should not be afraid to struggle for its own interests, including refusing to be part of a municipal coalition that does not take these interests into account,” he says, alluding to Hitorerut members who criticize Barkat yet remain in his coalition. “I would like to see here a city in which every community and sector can live according to its own traditions and ways, without harming any other community, this being the only way, to my understanding, of how this city could go forward and develop as a capital should.”
Havilio recently said that by the end of the High Holy Days, he would make a final decision on his candidacy for the next city council and mayoral elections, scheduled for November 2018.