Meet the gang

Rali Ben David 88 (photo credit: )
Rali Ben David 88
(photo credit: )
Summer days do have some kind of influence on our dear city councillors before they go on vacation. Before they left, two deputy mayors, Rabbi Yehoshua Pollack and Rabbi Eli Simhayoff, made sure their personal offices were individually air conditioned. The cost to the public, NIS 15,000. The reason: These two gentlemen argued that, and I quote, "We are fat individuals, so we suffer from the heat. When we work late hours, the air conditioning in the municipality is shut off, and we can't stand it." Need we say more? But since there are no city council meetings scheduled until the end of September, this column thought that this was a perfect opportunity to introduce you, dear reachers, to our distinguished elected officials. Ladies first. Five women serve on the Jerusalem City Council: one from the coalition and the other four from the opposition. That means that women constitute a little more than 6 percent of the 31 council members. Considering that even in haredi areas, there is every reason to assume that women make up 50% of the population, that's not a very impressive statistic. (If you're for women's equality, that is.) And who are these lucky ladies? Mina Fenton from the National Religious Party is a member of the coalition. The other four are Dalia Zommer from Shinui, Ruth Ralbag and Lidya Bilitzky from Jerusalem Will Succeed and Rali Ben-David from Meretz. Fenton, the veteran among them, was the staunchest opponent of the gay pride parade. She also opposes granting any political rights to the city's Arab residents and is not happy about accepting funds from Israel-supporting Christian groups, either. She was a fierce opponent of the cooperation between the municipality and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, run by Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein. The municipality's successful "disengagement" from the foundation can be credited in no small part to Fenton, who persisted in efforts to prove that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is in fact missionary. In her youth, Fenton served in the army as Yitzhak Rabin's chauffeur. Today, she heads the municipal Commission for the Advancement of the Status of Women and the Commission for the Relations with the Diaspora and the Jewish People. And now on to the opposition. Dalia Zommer's first steps in the city council were not easy. She is a veteran of the Shinui Party, a retired professor and a true believer in secularism, and she has made no secret of her negative feelings toward the haredi supremacy over the city council. Or, to be more precise - her very negative feelings. The demise of her mother-party has left her with no illusions: her political life will probably come to an end with the next municipal elections. But she's still determined not to make life easy for those at Kikar Safra - and there are, we must admit, many - who don't take the law seriously. "I only have two more years, but I'm not throwing up my hands." One of her more endearing - or not - habits is to correct the grammatical and spelling mistakes that she finds too often in the letters from the mayor's office. Jerusalem Will Succeed - which looks more like the end-of-the-year sell-out than the leader of the opposition - boasts two women members, the largest contingent of any municipal party. Dr. Lydia Bilitzky has become a reliable and trustworthy address for Russian immigrants in this city and has remained loyal to her "boss," Nir Barkat. But her fellows at the city council opposition complain that Bilitzky doesn't seem to understand the importance of real oppositional struggle. Last year, for example, she shocked everyone when, minutes before a critical vote, she collected her belongings and walked out, explaining that she had promised her husband that she would come home to cook dinner before 9 p.m. Bilitzky's fellow party-woman, Ruth Ralbag, a high-ranking official at the Health Ministry, has introduced a new trend into the coalition. Last year, she voted twice in support of the coalition, defying her own party's decision. In at least two others instances, she abstained. "I am not part of this game of opposition vs. coalition," she has repeated frequently. "I vote according to my conscience." Listening to her, Barkat looks desperate - but then, they don't speak to each other anyway. Rali Ben-David, from Meretz, is without a doubt the most colorful woman on the city council. She was born and raised in the Katamonim neighborhood - "It was dangerous but I enjoyed every moment," she was quoted as saying in a magazine interview - she is a single mother who once even worked as a construction worker. Even her supporters call her "a walking provocation," and she has a predilection for making the bluntest statements imaginable, including the unrestrained use of the Hebrew equivalent of four letter words. Her necklines are sometimes so low that the haredi members of the council once lowered the temperature in the meeting room in the vain expectation that the chill would convince her to wear a little more. But Ben-David made it clear that she would prefer freezing over hiding her charms. But even Ben-David sometimes outdoes herself. Once, when asked, she acknowledged that she treats Mayor Uri Lupolianski with a special gentleness. Even those who have known her for a long time were appalled when she responded, "Yes, it's true. I'm in love with Uri Lupolianski's butt, that's why." In our next column, we'll tell you about the hidden righteous ones - the most anonymous city councilors.