Can Jerusalem live up to its diversity?

Jerusalem Day is a good opportunity to remind us all that Jerusalem’s power stems from the wealth of its communities and its diversity.

Israel's most populous city, Jerusalem, May 13, 2020 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israel's most populous city, Jerusalem, May 13, 2020
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – is a holiday for me. Jerusalem is my life’s work.
Since my release from service as an officer in the IDF, I have been working on behalf of the city, in both the social and political spheres.
I believe it is possible to turn disadvantages into advantages, to make a celebration out of our cultural richness, creating connections between various populations on behalf of this city, which I feel within the depths of my being.
During most of the years I have worked on behalf of the city, I have done so on a fully volunteer basis, from all my heart, and with great love for the city and the amazing movement we created.
During the past 10 years, my friends and I in Hitorerut, together with former mayor Nir Barkat and others, promoted the city’s economy and technological innovation, developed the city’s center and culture, and strengthened the informal education system.
We did so in broad partnership in an almost wall-to-wall coalition with our neighbors and partners in the city: haredi or ultra-Orthodox residents, who have great importance in the fabric of society in the city.
Unfortunately, due to narrow political interests, Hitorerut was pushed out of the municipal coalition. Rather than building the city together on behalf of all the sectors, Mayor Moshe Lion chose to build a narrow coalition, primarily from the haredi and Hardal (Nationalist ultra-Orthodox) sectors, which does not represent many of the city’s residents.
I very much love the haredi and Hardal populations, but they are not the sole face of the city.
Jerusalem is diverse and so are its interests. Each community is unique, and thus the city’s leadership must represent its various streams and address their needs. The city’s leadership is currently not doing so, and the processes important to the diverse population that voted for Hitorerut have stopped.
The cultural and social complex in the Warburg Lot in Kiryat Yovel is not being promoted, budgets are allocated unequally, the character of neighborhoods is being eroded, subsidized-rent housing efforts are stuck, the city is not creating new economic growth engines, and the amount of cultural initiatives have decreased.
Jerusalem Day is a good opportunity to remind us all that Jerusalem’s power stems from the wealth of its communities and its diversity.
We saw this more than ever during the height of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The volunteer hotline run by Lev Echad and Hitorerut worked energetically during the crisis in partnership with volunteers from various sectors in the city on behalf of those in need.
Members of the haredi department in Hitorerut distributed medicine to ultra-Orthodox families who needed it; on Holocaust Remembrance Day, secular, religious and haredi volunteers stood during the commemorative siren together with Holocaust survivors in their homes; and on Israel Independence Day, volunteers came to the Nahlaot neighborhood to celebrate the 100th birthday of Shimon, a veteran Jerusalemite who celebrates his birthday with the state.
This is only a small selection of the work done together.
Jerusalemites have proved that they want to live together, and they can live together. This is the city’s power. No politician can change that.
Jerusalem’s uniqueness is in its diversity. Everyone deserves help and support. Everyone is important.
The city’s leadership must listen to the grassroots.
The way to manage the city is through partnership among many sectors, on behalf of all.
This is the only way.
Happy Jerusalem Day to all the city’s residents!
With hopes for healthy and quiet days ahead.

The writer is chair of the Hitorerut in Jerusalem movement.