Women participation gains momentum in Jerusalem municipal elections race

Efforts to increase female representation in the Jerusalem Municipality has now started to generate action on the ground.

 YAEL ENTEBI represents Pisgat Ze’ev. (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
YAEL ENTEBI represents Pisgat Ze’ev.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)

One hundred and forty-four days before the mayoral and city council elections, and it seems that the entry of women into the race has been the sole factor bringing some action to this sleepy campaign.

On one hand, the Kiberstein Institute-led program for deepening the involvement of the capital’s women ahead of elections is gaining momentum and is beginning to generate action on the ground. At the same time, there is already one clear candidate, a figure not new to Jerusalem’s local politics: Yael Entebi, who was already a member and was deputy mayor during Nir Barkat’s tenure, having missed the current council by just 300 votes.

The aim of the group established with the institute’s leadership, “Safra Square” – which chose the moniker as an allusion to the aspiration of actually reaching Safra Square; that is, the sixth floor where the council hall is located – is to encourage women to run for city council and significantly increase female representation.

Pushing for women to enter the Jerusalem City Council

Entebi, married and the mother of five, has a bachelor’s in geography and Bible, and a master’s in public policy from the Hebrew University. As part of the Safra Square initiative, she is running as a representative of Pisgat Ze’ev – a Jerusalem neighborhood, though it could be a small city in Israeli terms, with some 40,000 inhabitants. 

With its 33,000 eligible voters, Pisgat Ze’ev earned the dubious title of being among Israel’s 10 neighborhoods with the highest rates of burglary and car theft. The residents’ major problem? Lack of security due to proximity to the city’s east side, from which shots have been fired more than once. 

 SAFRA SQUARE: More female representation?  (credit: DAVID VAAKNIN/ FLASH 90)
SAFRA SQUARE: More female representation? (credit: DAVID VAAKNIN/ FLASH 90)

If elected, Entebi promises to deal seriously with property crimes; clean up dog excrement; arrange trash removal on Friday afternoons; and improve the timing of traffic lights by installing smart lights to ease morning traffic pressures. 

Her guiding credo is “Only local representatives of city neighborhoods will really do the job, and not necessarily representatives – however talented they may be – who are actually identified with national lists.”

MORE THAN 25 women of all denominations, ages and political backgrounds participate in the Safra Square initiative, with its focus of empowering women to step into the political arena. Learning how it functions, how it is accessible (or not), and the costs and benefits of joining amid the “rules of the game” are at the center of the meetings. 

One such woman, Yael Yehieli, initiator and leader of the 50:50 project, is not afraid to make a clear statement: Women should be on every list, including haredi ones, since “there are plenty of ultra-Orthodox women who have something to say and what to promote for themselves and for their public.” 

To that end, Yehieli and a number of members of her influence group, as a first step, launched a personal appeal to all faction leaders currently represented on the city council, demanding that in the 50:50 spirit, they include women on their lists.

Stay tuned. ❖