Tel Avivians wonder if leading mayoral candidates are two peas in a pod

The Yafa list is seen as a game-changer for Jaffa.

Tel Aviv mayoral candidates Ron Huldai (L) and Asaf Zamir (R) cast their votes in the city's municipal elections, October 30, 2018 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Tel Aviv mayoral candidates Ron Huldai (L) and Asaf Zamir (R) cast their votes in the city's municipal elections, October 30, 2018
Election Day in Tel Aviv-Jaffa looked like a Friday morning on steroids. The streets were bustling, shop, cafes and bars were jam-packed with both Tel Avivians and out-of-towners, and foreign tourists were baffled as to why the city was so lively on a Tuesday afternoon.
But in between the fun and parties across the city, many residents took a few minutes out of their day to exercise their democratic right, though those who were still undecided left it to the last-minute in hope of clarity.
In the Old North of Tel Aviv there was a feeling that Rov Hair leader Asaf Zamir had an edge over the other candidates, with several businesses proudly displaying his posters. Efrat Ditur is one of his supporters, as are other members of her family. “My son-in-law is a big fan of his and apart from the fact that we know him, I think he is an amazing quality candidate who will give a lot and has already given a lot over all these years, and Huldai has to go home,” Ditur told The Jerusalem Post. If Huldai is re-elected, she said she would be disappointed.
Two other residents of central Tel Aviv, who did not disclose their names, also said that they would be disappointed if Huldai was re-elected. While they would not share who their candidates of choice were, they said that 20 years is enough for a mayor to serve.
Shirley (would not disclose her family name), however, voted Huldai. “Not for any particularly good reason,” she told the Post. “He and Asaf Zamir seem to me the same, and all in all Zamir has too many famous friends – which I didn’t like. It seems like that is what interests him.”
She added given that she doesn’t see much difference between the two candidates, she didn’t think it was worth taking the risk of changing the status. “All in all, I’m fine with what is happening in the city and I know Huldai has opposed doing certain things which I agree with – but I don’t know how Zamir will truly behave.” She added that she didn’t even consider voting either of the two other candidates.
Meanwhile, another resident, who was on his way to host a BBQ, told the Post that he would not be voting since he’d be happy with either Huldai or Zamir as his mayor.
At the south end of town, in Jaffa, a restaurant owner had also decided not the vote, but for the opposite reason.
Huldai, he said, started well. He would visit his restaurant every Friday, he said, and spend time with the residents of Jaffa, listening to their issues. “The years went by… and I told him he forgot about us,” he added, claiming that City Hall is now “throwing Jaffa in the bin.”
On the other hand, he has never seen Zamir in Jaffa. “He doesn’t know us... If he came here and looked at our area and took care of us [as deputy mayor]... but nothing.”  Meanwhile, Harel, he said, is fit for TV, not City Hall. “There’s a difference between talking and doing. When did I see him apart from seeing him on the TV?,” he said.
Down the road, another Jaffa resident was deliberating between Harel and Zamir. Ali Jaffaly told the Post that while he thinks Harel is more connected to Jaffa, Zamir is the safer bet in terms of who is more likely win.
His colleague Amir Aburizek opted for Zamir for that very reason. “At first I wanted Harel but I voted Zamir out of practical considerations,” he said. “I think Huldai will win, but my vote for Zamir was to add to the pressure so that Huldai can see that he can be replaced and maybe that will encourage him to give more to the residents.”
Aburizek said that today, life is good for wealthy residents of Jaffa, but it’s hard for the weaker populations. “It’s hard for them to survive... There are people fighting to be able to eat,” agreed Jaffaly, adding that many young adults can’t afford to live in Jaffa and therefore leave the city.
“The situation is good for those who can afford to stay here, because they are investing in the infrastructure – though it feels like they are not doing it for the Arab residents but for the rich people that are moving in and tourists,” he said.
“I do want to replace Huldai,” said Jaffaly. “He has been mayor for 20 years and I do think a new candidate would bring change,” he added, though he said he doesn’t think there will be a great difference between a Zamir mayorship and a Huldai mayorship, while Harel has more Jaffa representation on his list.
Nonetheless, Aburizek and Jaffaly acknowledge that Huldai has done a lot for the city, including building several schools in Jaffa. “Which is also connected to Zamir, who was in charge of education,” Aburizek notes. “So they are both people who are already in the system and have the capabilities to see things though.”
Both Jaffaly and Aburizek voted the Yafa list for their municipal party vote and see the party as a game changer, which they believe has encouraged more Jaffa residents to take an active interest in the local election and to get out and vote. “All its agenda is for Jaffa,” said Abuuizek. “It’s the only party like this. We’ve never had one like this before, with young, fresh and quality candidates who have energy and agendas that is only for Jaffa residents – something nobody did before.”
Mother and daughter Maissa and Safinaz Garabli also voted for the Yafa list, and for mayor, both voted for Huldai. “I remember Jaffa differently, when I was younger there was less investment in education in the surroundings. I think he invested a lot in Jaffa,” said Maissa.
“He invested in everything,” her mother chimed in. “We already know him, we know what his capabilities are,” she said, opining that Tel Aviv-Jaffa is in a good way and will continue to improve under Huldai.
As a mother, Maissa said that education is important to her and points to quality schools that exist today in Jaffa, including an bilingual Arab-Jewish school Hand in Hand. “I think he’s doing a great job.”
The Yafa list, Maissa said, is made up of “excellent people,” who she has no doubt will do good for Jaffa.