Will the real haredi leader please stand up?

In connection to Mea She'arim, Mayor Uri Lupolianski's religious affiliation only makes things worse.

haredi 88 (photo credit: )
haredi 88
(photo credit: )
We already know that Jerusalem is like no other city, but sometimes it's worth taking a closer look at what makes it so different. Take the fragile network of relationships between the different populations, for example. To achieve some kind of order, there must be good relationships among Arabs, the haredim, religious Zionists, the secular, immigrants and foreign visitors - as well as among the factions that exist within the aforementioned groups. And guess what? A leader able to truly build bridges between these different groups has not yet been found - but sometimes we are pleasantly surprised. In the past few weeks, things have become very tense in the haredi neighborhoods, mostly in Geula, Mea She'arim and the Bukharan Quarter. Officially, the reason behind the tension (and a few rather violent demonstrations) is the mass transit plan, which is intended to service these areas. The haredi residents are worried that high-grade buses will bring more of the liberal secular atmosphere of downtown into their streets, and they were ready to fight over it. That this municipality is headed by a haredi does not help matters. In fact, in connection to Mea She'arim, Mayor Uri Lupolianski's religious affiliation only makes things worse - he is persona non grata in that part of the city. At City Hall, a few sources even attributed the rise in tension more to personal issues with the mayor than to the problematic encounter between haredi values and modernity. But this time, Lupolianski made a smart move (or maybe received some good advice) and stepped back to let the local leadership deal with the situation. The result is a real first: A written agreement between the heads of the Geula-Bukharan Quarter Neighborhood Administration and the anti-Zionist leadership of Mea She'arim, headed by Rabbi Yoel Kraus. "We know that the organization for community centers [Hevra Lematnasim] is a municipal auxiliary, and we even know that Lupolianski heads its board," explains one haredi man. "But for us, these are people who live here in the neighborhood... and are not messengers of the mayor, who is not one of us. In fact, nobody wants to see a repeat of last year," referring to the riots that the opposition to the gay pride parade incited last year. According to the new agreement, which was signed at the end of a secret meeting in Kraus's home, the representatives of the haredi neighborhoods will be involved in every aspect of the mass transit plan and thus avoid any misunderstanding. The agreement was signed by the local leadership, representatives of the Transportation Ministry and the neighborhood administration. And where was the municipality? Well, it was physically absent but its presence was almost tangible. For the residents of Mea She'arim, their honor is safe: They dealt with representatives of their neighborhood, not Kikar Safra. But then, isn't the whole mass transit plan organized by the municipality? In fact, the whole transit project was conceived so that citizens would be involved in every step, and this agreement merely reinforces what was already going on. So what is all the fuss about? The agreement on the ground didn't clarify one thing: Who is the real boss in the haredi neighborhoods, the municipality or Kraus and his friends? "We all want peace and quiet," explains my haredi source, "but silence is more enjoyable when it comes after the noise is over."