Playing his cards right?

Mayor Uri Lupolianski has to convince haredim while encouraging secular residents to vote for him.

lupolianski 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lupolianski 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Before he became haredi and mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski was an actor - yes, he performed in various plays in his hometown of Haifa. Then he began wearing black suits and created Yad Sarah, for which he was awarded the Israel Prize, and the rest is history. Municipal attorney Yossi Havilio keeps reminding Lupolianski - through legal decrees mysteriously released to the local press - that as we are into the five months preceding the elections, Lupolianski's face and voice shouldn't be presented to the public. Last week, in the framework of the Israel Festival and the never-ending festivities for the 40th anniversary of the reunification of the city, a free performance of Bustan Sepharadi was given in Gan Sacher. Before the show began, a short movie on Jerusalem was screened, which included a few clips of Lupolianski. Havilio was outraged and immediately sent a letter to the mayor, reminding him that it is forbidden for a candidate to misuse his position for public appearances. Havilio is right about the law, it's just that officially Lupolianski is not a candidate, and thus Havilio's warnings, at least for the moment, are misplaced. Even though Lupolianski is not technically a mayoral candidate, it's no secret he wants the job. As such, his strategy has been to prove to the haredi rabbis that he is the only "acceptable" haredi around to represent the city's non-haredim. But here Lupolianski walks a fine line, since his acceptability in the eyes of part of the non-haredi sector makes him suspect among his constituency. Because he has failed to prevent the gay pride parade, Lupolianski has become one of its harshest and most outspoken critics (three years ago he said in an interview with a local radio station that such a parade in Jerusalem was comparable to "a pig's head on Al-Aksa [Mosque]"). So last week, despite the fact that the heads of the haredi community reached a discreet agreement with the Open House to allow the parade to proceed without the violent opposition of last year, Lupolianski decided to fan the flames around the issue. First, he wrote an outraged letter to Havilio, who had issued a legal opinion stating that the municipality had no legal grounds to prevent the gay parade. Second, he issued a public declaration, co-signed by city council members of the coalition and Municipal Director-General Yair Ma'ayan (an illegal mixture of elected and public officials), opposing the parade. Moving on, earlier this week, in an interview with Channel 10 on the lack of municipal services for Jerusalem's Arab sector, Lupolianski got really carried away. Welfare correspondent Talia Peled-Keinan highlighted the story of an Arab resident of Jerusalem who, despite paying arnona (property tax), is not connected to the city water system. In response, Lupolianski said: "No, you are mistaken. You don't understand. It's a matter of mentality. You [Peled-Keinan] are from Tel Aviv. The Arabs are not ready to be connected to the water pipe itself. They want to be connected [only] they know when. Also, they have some issue with having cold water with the air, etc., the air circulation. And also they say, 'We want to be sure that we have a certain amount of water, so that someone cannot disconnect us suddenly.'" Hard to believe? Check it out for yourself: The municipal spokesman's office responds: "It was a distortion of the mayor's words. The mayor said that Arabs prefer to put water tanks on the roof to preserve the circulation and cool [temperature] of the water."