Woman on the move

The first female to head a party on the Jerusalem city council, Yael Antebi, wants to strike a heavy blow to the light rail.

Yael Antebi 248.88 (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Yael Antebi 248.88
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Yael Antebi is not yet 50, but she is already a grandmother. And, according to her close friends and relatives, this is an important point in her biography. But Antebi, who has become the first woman to head a party on the Jerusalem city council, is here to do "a job." She was sent by 7,761 of the 50,000 residents of the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, who said they had had enough of being considered second-class citizens by the municipality and voted for her Pisgat Ze'ev on the Map party. Just for the record, the Green Leaf party obtained 1,355 votes, and the Or-Green party, which presented an aggressive plan against the haredi hegemony, received even fewer: 1,025. Antebi paved her way to Kikar Safra on the heels of frustration: the frustration experienced twice a day - mornings and evenings - by the members of the 1,500 families living in what was supposed to be the perfect neighborhood for young, well-established residents in the northern part of the city. "It turned out to be something of a nightmare because nobody at the municipality cared enough about our needs; they just took us for granted," explains Yitzhak Mor, a veteran resident. Besides complaints regarding lack of public parks and playgrounds, the main issue has been the traffic jams. The drive from Pisgat Ze'ev to downtown Jerusalem, which should not take more than 15 minutes, can sometimes take 50 minutes. Recently, with the launching of the light rail roadworks, for which nobody at Kikar Safra had prepared any alternative routes or even informed the residents, traffic has reached even more untenable levels. During the long hours that she was stuck in traffic - as were her neighbors - Antebi, instead of surrendering to the anger and frustration, stuck a note on her car inviting her suffering neighbors to elect her to a party in the upcoming elections. It turned out to be a resounding success. Thousands joined her and volunteered to spread the word, and on December 17 Antebi joined the other 30 elected city council members and was offered - - there is some kind of divine justice - the portfolio of traffic and transportation. Who is Yael Antebi? A 48-year-old mother of five, grandmother of one, she settled in Pisgat Ze'ev 23 years ago. As she was looking for a job that would allow her to raise her children, she and her husband founded a local newspaper, The Voice of the Pisga, which has been published every two weeks for the past 21 years. Antebi is a one-woman show at the paper: She deals with the ads, writes the articles, edits her own material and takes the pictures. When she needs a photo to illustrate the geopolitical situation in her neighborhood, she just steps out onto her balcony, from which she can see the Security Fence and the Shuafat refugee camp. The newspaper has turned her into a kind of "unofficial address" for her neighbors and, she adds with humor, facilitated her entry into politics "just like Shelly Yacimovich or Tommy Lapid." Obtaining the 250 signatures required by law to create a party was not so difficult, but she had to let go two other women. "Neither of the women I approached was ready to take the risk of losing a job," she says. That left her at the top of an exclusively male list. But the real problem was money. Another requirement of the state is that a new party must submit NIS 23,000. "It was a joint decision [with my husband]," explains Antebi. "Friends of ours used such sums of money for a trip to Thailand, but we thought, 'Who says that big adventures are only far away?' We decided to use our own money, and we ran the campaign from our living room." What is Antebi's mandate? She says she will first try to "bring back a friendly face and approach to the municipality and its inspectors." For example, residents who make sure to park in authorized areas should not be fined if they are "just a few minutes" late. In regard to the main issue that brought her to Kikar Safra, Antebi promises that she will do her utmost to convince the people in charge to "rethink the roadworks and the launching of the light rail in respect to the needs of the residents, not in opposition to them, as has been the case until now."