New Faces: Looking East

Israel has to give Arab residents of the city full equality, says councilor Yakir Segev.

yakir segev 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yakir segev 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yakir Segev says he had never intended to go into politics. "I only wanted to help Nir Barkat win the mayoral elections, and now that he's the mayor to help him with his plans." Segev and Barkat met some five years ago. Segev was introduced to the then leader of the opposition at Kikar Safra and was immediately appointed chairman of one of the associations Barkat had created - the students' association, Good Spirit. Later on, Segev was invited by Barkat to join his party for the 2008 elections, and thus he became a city council member. Segev is in charge of youth affairs in the city, and he also holds the portfolio for east Jerusalem. Considering the fact that Segev is the man behind the settlers' campaign on Judea and Samaria's being "a Jewish story," his appointment was not easy to swallow for the left side of Barkat's coalition. They were afraid he would encourage Jewish settlement in the Old City. "I am perfectly aware of the complexity of the situation in east Jerusalem," admits Segev. "We always talk about Jerusalem as one undivided city, but the fact is that this is a divided city - in all aspects: the dirty streets, the lack of sidewalks, the whole situation in fact shouts that there has been no equal attitude, and we want to change this. "When we say we expect the residents in the eastern part of the city to respect the law, especially where building permits are concerned, we have to come with 'clean hands,' meaning that we have to offer fair solutions. If we want the city to be ours, we have to treat it as real owners treat their property. We have to provide solutions to the needs of the residents, and that is exactly what I am going to do - with the mayor's full support and guidance." Regarding the youth aspect of his portfolio, Segev points out that the first issue to deal with is the image of the city. "We have to change this image - which is today an image of a city of haredi kollelim and soup kitchens. Of course, Jerusalem is much more than that. This is a city that offers so much more, but we all know that this is its image for a large part of its residents and outside the city as well. So we have to change that first." One of the steps Segev has taken to try and change the city's image is the recent launch of a special open house of all the art schools in Jerusalem, giving new students and youth planning their studies an opportunity to realize how rich Jerusalem is in that particular field. "The next step is, of course, to ensure that students who come to Jerusalem to study arts stay here and create art here instead of leaving the city and moving to the center of the country as the case has been until now," says Segev. He admits that to make his plans work, his first task will be to raise as much money as possible. Yakir Segev is 32, married and the father of two children. Born in Moshav Mabu'im in the Negev, he came to Jerusalem "because this is what I wanted to do." He has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and economics, and a master's in public management. When he was three years old he lost an arm in an accident, but that didn't prevent him from living a normal life, including doing complete army service in one of the IDF elite units.