Corridors of Power: Standing on unfamiliar ground

Veteran activist Pepe Allalu finds himself in the unusual position of being part of the establishment.

pepe allalu 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
pepe allalu 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Pepe Allalu (Meretz) has always been a dedicated advocate of the rights of the weak in their struggle against the establishment. For years he fought for these causes from the opposition. But since the last elections, he is now himself part of the establishment, serving as deputy mayor under Nir Barkat. This new situation sometimes puts him an an awkward position. Since Barkat came to power, the battle for supremacy has intensified between religious and secular residents for supremacy. The secular population expects the mayor to represent its interests, while the haredim want to prevent him from diminishing what they have achieved thus far. Allalu, who is secular, says he has deep respect for tradition but is opposed to any religious coercion. Thus one can find him at the forefront of the religious-secular war that is being waged in our city. For example, the second mikve being built in Beit Hakerem: "I know it is built in accordance with the law and has all the required permits, but it's never too late to change the situation," he said during a demonstration at the building site last week. Allalu also stood by the residents of the Katamonim who are protesting an additional haredi kindergarten being established in their neighborhood. And he is active in the struggle against the pirate eruv boundaries (permitting carrying in public on Shabbat) that were set illegally by haredim who recently moved to Kiryat Hayovel. Allalu is also active in the protest against the new rule in Shas educational institutions, which requires that female teachers cover their head with scarves and prohibits the wearing of wigs. Allalu believes he is doing his job. The problem is that in some cases, his position is not exactly the official position of the administration he is a part of. Indeed, Barkat announced last week that he is canceling plans for a haredi kindergarten in Katamonim; but he has no such intention vis a vis the Beit Hakerem mikve. This mikve might, as Beit Hakerem's residents fear, attract haredim from Bayit Vagan; but for the moment, it is intended for the young Zionist religious families recently established in that neighborhood, a public that is very close to the secular mayor. Pessah and the Had Gadya tradition is far behind us, but in the timeless Holy City, past and present often mingle and daily issues sometimes sound like a rendition of this ancient song. A month ago, the District Court ruled that seven vendors expelled four years ago from the Mahaneh Yehuda market should be allowed to return to the market. The municipality went to the High Court and asked that the ruling be canceled. But then the vendors discovered that the municipality had allowed the Aroma and Burekas Haifa coffee shops in the same market to display chairs and tables outside and reported it to the court, and thus strengthened their case. So the municipality told the court that the permit to the two coffee shops had been given "by mistake." Two days later, the municipality told the court that the illegal permits had been granted "for a short trial period." Deputy president of the court, Judge David Heshin, was not convinced and ruled in favor of the vendors' immediate return to the market. Any guess what the municipality's reaction was? Of course, a cancellation of the 'temporary permit'. At that point, the owners of the coffee shops went to the court, arguing that the municipality was back-pedaling. Heshin said bluntly: "There is no way to avoid the conclusion that the municipality's attitude is caused by my ruling in favor of the vendors." Meanwhile, the High Court issued its ruling at the request of the municipality and froze the District Court's decision to allow the vendors to return to the market. Now everybody is waiting to see what Heshin's final ruling will be regarding the municipality's appeal against the tables and chairs of the two coffee shops in Mahaneh Yehuda, to see if it will allow the vendors to return and display their merchandise in the market's main street - right where the tables and chairs of the two coffee shops are still displayed - temporarily or not. Stay tuned.