Jerusalemites reluctantly return to the polls

The day before the runoff, The Jerusalem Post asked locals their thoughts about the upcoming election.

Elections in Israel (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Elections in Israel
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Jerusalemites seem more split and ambivalent than ever as Tuesday’s mayoral runoff election between Ofer Berkovitch and Moshe Lion nears.
The Jerusalem municipal elections ended two weeks ago with none of the five mayoral candidates earning the necessary 40% of the votes needed to replace current Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat.
Finishing in first and second place respectively, Lion and Berkovitch will face off in Tuesday’s runoff election and have been fighting hard to capture the votes needed to become Jerusalem’s next mayor. But is it enough to motivate residents of this highly diverse city to show up to the polls again?
The day before the runoff, The Jerusalem Post asked locals their thoughts about the upcoming election.
Aharon from the religious neighborhood of Har Nof is choosing to abstain from voting. “I don’t trust either of these candidates” he told the Post. “Nir Barkat was a great mayor and it’s a shame that he’s not endorsing either of them.”
He shared that two weeks ago he voted for Ze’ev Elkin. But given the two choices this time  around, he is not moved to vote for either candidate. “If I had to pick again, I would have picked Yossi Daitch, because at least he has the experience and showed a real effort in bringing citizens together. I don’t see that with Lion – he’s too corrupt and going after the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) agenda instead of what will be good for Jerusalem. Berkovitch doesn’t have enough experience and Lion can’t even get the haredim to agree to support him,” he added.
Shimon, a gentleman over 60 from Arnona was sitting with a group of peers at Mahaneh Yehuda Market’s trendy Cafelax Cafe. He told the Post that he will be reluctantly voting for Lion on Tuesday since he is “the less bad candidate.”
Two weeks ago, Shimon also cast his vote for Ze’ev Elkin, but after weighing out the pros and cons, he decided on Lion because he has more experience than Berkovitch.
Jonathan, 24, from Neve Yaakov – donning a knit kippah and fittingly eating a ‘Jerusalem Mix’ pita – also said he voted for Elkin two weeks ago, but hasn’t decided who to vote for on Tuesday.
“On the one hand, Berkovitch is knowledgeable, has a liberal agenda and he also wants public transportation on Shabbat. Jerusalem isn’t a city just for Jews; we have Muslims and Christians who can benefit from this, too. I think Berkovitch can bring balance to this city between haredi, [national] religious and secular Jews – this is important for Jerusalem. Moshe Lion is not doing this; he’s more in line with the haredim and he’s very open about this. But Lion is religious so that speaks to me personally,” Jonathan added.
Munching on sandwiches outside New Deli on Ben Yehuda Street, Rudi told the Post he will vote for Berkovitch again in this election but is unsure why.
A haredi man from Ramat Shlomo who did not want to reveal his name said that he, too, does not yet know who to vote for, or even if he will vote on Tuesday. Two weeks ago he voted for Yossi Daitch but will most likely vote for Lion this time, due to his policy toward the haredim.
Sapir Alfasi and Hanit Ben David from Pisgat Ze’ev were each enjoying a cigarette after finishing crepes at Jerusalem’s ice cream chain Katzefet. They told the Post that they voted for Berkovitch two weeks ago and will vote for him again. When asked why, they responded: “Because we don’t want the ultra-orthodox running the city.”
A woman who was sitting in Zion Square told the Post she did not vote two weeks ago and will not vote on Tuesday either. An immigrant from the United States, she has been living in Israel for three years and speaks limited Hebrew.
“I don’t want to abstain from voting but I don’t know what the candidates stand for.” She explained that none of the candidates made any effort to reach out to her or her community of English-speaking immigrants. (Berkovitch was, however, the only major candidate to come personally to the pre-election English debate sponsored by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.)
“If the candidates just wrote their information in English, I would at least be able to make an informed decision. But everything is in Hebrew and it makes us feel alienated. How hard is it to write a pamphlet in English?”