Getting ready to vote for 'one of our own'

When it comes to November's mayoral election in Jerusalem, sectarianism seems to be the name of the game. Inside the bustling Mahaneh Yehuda market on Thursday, haredim said they were voting for MK Meir Porush, the likely haredi candidate, secular voters leaned toward Nir Barkat, the secular candidate and leader of the opposition on the city council, younger voters with an affinity for the Betar Jerusalem soccer team said they were with Arkadi Gaydamak, the team's billionaire owner and the latest to enter the fray, while Arabs said all was lost and nobody was worth voting for. "They're all bad," said Dauod Kareem, an east Jerusalemite who works at a bakery in the market. "The Left, the Right, they're all eating the country alive. Only God above can help us now. Whoever it ends up being, though, I just hope they act like a good human being." Amjad from Shuafat in the capital's northeast said he wanted a mayor who would worry about the residents of east Jerusalem. "I would vote for someone who will give services to east Jerusalem, but I haven't heard any talk about that," he said. "Do you know how many uncompleted buildings there are over there today? Do you know what it looks like over there?" Inside the covered market, a Jewish man echoed their sentiments. "I don't care if [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh becomes mayor," he said. They're all a bunch of liars and thieves." At a nearby nut stand, the Levi brothers said they supported Gaydamak. "He has so much money and he owns Betar," Moshe Levi said. "And his daughter is beautiful," chimed in brother Danny. "She's really something else." Ilan Kalimi at the Barekas Ramle eatery on the corner of Rehov Agrippas said he was "absolutely" voting for Barkat. "He's a good person," Kalimi said of Barkat. "I've spoken with him and you can tell that he's sincere, he's not like other politicians. He has plenty of money, so I don't worry about him being greedy, and he's the only person up top who cares about this city - I'd make him prime minister if I could." Shlomo Yehuda agreed. "The haredim are only going to build yeshivas," he said. "And Gaydamak is no good either. I say only Barkat." While Yehuda's family is from Ethiopia, he was born in Jerusalem and said he had seen the city change a great deal since he was a little boy. "It's become so haredi," he said. "When I was a kid it was nothing like this. But now, you get the feeling that they're the only ones here." The haredi population has indeed grown rapidly in recent years, and tends to get behind a single candidate. That candidate looks set to be Porush, who next week expects to be confirmed as United Torah Judaism's preference, over incumbent Mayor Uri Lupolianski. "Whoever the haredi candidate will be, we will vote for him," said Nachman Glatzer, who studies at a Breslov yeshiva in the Old City. "It's still unclear if it will be Porush or someone else, but the haredim will definitely vote as one group for whoever the haredi candidate is." Across Jaffa Road and into the Geula neighborhood, other haredi men said the same thing. "We obviously vote for own, why would we do anything else?" asked Shimon, who works in a fish shop on Rehov David Yellin. "It's natural for any group to try and advance their own agenda, and that's exactly what we are doing." His coworker stepped out from the back holding a knife and a large piece of fish. "I say, 'Anyone but Gaydamak!'" he yelled. "He's a crook and a mafioso and he will destroy this holy city." "It really doesn't make a difference to me," Shimon declared, then apparently contradicted his earlier comments by adding: "I don't plan on voting at all. I don't think politicians can really make a difference."