Jerusalem deputy mayor Azaria joins Kahlon's Koolanu Party

Kahlon, the former communications minister who broke away from Likud and formed his own party, was wooing Azaria to join his slate of candidates for weeks.

Moshe Kahlon welcomes Rachel Azaria to Koolanu‏ (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Moshe Kahlon welcomes Rachel Azaria to Koolanu‏
Jerusalem deputy mayor, women’s and family-rights activist and Yerushalmim faction leader Rachel Azaria formally announced her candidacy as an MK for the nascent Koolanu party at a Tuesday press conference in the capital.
Azaria, who holds the Jerusalem Municipality’s Education and Women’s Rights portfolios, is now the party’s second woman, following Monday’s addition of former deputy mayor of Kiryat Shmona Dr. Yifat Sasha-Biton.
Since being elected in 2008, Azaria, whose faction holds two seats in the capital’s city council, has been a staunch advocate for women’s rights, early childhood education and reformed kashrut laws.
Koolanu, which was registered last month, was created by former Likud welfare minister Moshe Kahlon and includes former ambassador to the US Michael Oren and Israel Prize laureate Eli Alaluf.
While most of the goals for the party listed on the registrar forms are socioeconomic, Koolanu also calls for “creating a diplomatic-security horizon for Israel” and “desires a diplomatic agreement with our neighbors.”
As a wife and mother of four, Azaria said Tuesday her goals will be to empower families by lowering the costs of nursery schools and daycare; matching parents’ vacation days to their children’s; and ensuring that every family can give children “a dignified existence.”
“Moshe knows how to create change, has done much to help the citizens of Israel and he knows how to improve their day-to-day lives,” she said at the press conference.
“If you are a mother of small children, or if you are a father of children in school, and you feel that your children deserve more, your place is with us.”
“I promise to work every day and every hour for your children, because my four children are my [greatest priority],” Azaria continued.
Last year Azaria won reelection to the council and subsequently was appointed deputy mayor.
Since taking office, she has spearheaded multiple initiatives to empower women and ease highly restrictive kosher certification laws governed by the Chief Rabbinate in an attempt to create greater trust between the nation’s food purveyors and patrons.
Kahlon said Azaria’s noted acumen at engendering rights for women and families and fighting for economic parity makes her a perfect fit for the Koolanu party, which means “all of us” in Hebrew.
“Rachel is here for the same reason we’re all here; for the same reason the Koolanu party was formed,” he said.
“The party espouses a struggle against monopolies, cartels and lobbyists, and our goal is to give relief to citizens’ lives economically and socially.
“Rachel is with us here because she realized, like all of us have, that wherever you turn you bump into monopolies and lobby groups.”
Moreover, Kahlon said Azaria’s activism for young, economically-challenged families will resonate with millions in the March election.
“The upcoming elections are particularly important for young couples, who want to get their own apartment,” he said. “These unbearable economic gaps endanger Israel.”
Kahlon continued: “A nation that is weak internally will be weak externally and, therefore, our role is to strengthen Israel from inside, and that’s what we will do.”
Azaria holds a BA in psychology and MA in conflict resolution from the Hebrew University and resides in the capital’s Katamon neighborhood.