Grapevine: The Ra’anana mayor-go-round

Of all his public positions, the one that Kadima MK Ze’ev Bielski arguably liked best was that of mayor of Ra’anana.

Sderot Mayor David Buskila at his hunger-strike 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Sderot Mayor David Buskila at his hunger-strike 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ WHAT GOES around comes around. Of all his public positions, the one that Kadima MK Ze’ev Bielski arguably liked best was that of mayor of Ra’anana, a post he held for 17 years before becoming chairman of the Jewish Agency. When he joined then Kadima head Tzipi Livni in the party’s election campaign, which resulted in the largest number of votes of all the competing parties, he left the Jewish Agency and became a parliamentarian.
Now Ra’anana Mayor Nahum Hofree has announced that he’s running for the Knesset elections in the Labor Party primaries, which means that the mayoral seat will once more be up for grabs. Although there will probably be an acting mayor until next year’s municipal elections should Hofree gain a seat in the Knesset, the popular Bielski has a good chance of returning to his former office.
■ ALL DIPLOMATS in the course of their service abroad take home souvenirs when they conclude their assignments in any given country. British Ambassador Matthew Gould, who arrived in Israel childless but with great expectations, will, when the time comes, take home his Sabra daughter, Rachel, plus an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Gould is among five honorees who will be conferred with honorary doctorates within the framework of the Ben-Gurion Day ceremonies at BGU on November 20.
The other honorees are quantum physicist Prof. Yakir Aharonov; Adina Bar- Shalom, founder of Israel’s first college for haredi women; author Meir Shalev, who writes books for both adults and children; and Berta Yampolsky, founder and director of the Israel Ballet.
It’s fairly likely that Gould’s parents will come from England to attend the conferment ceremony, but one wonders whether Bar-Shalom’s father, who is Shas spiritual mentor and former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, will make the trip from Jerusalem to Beersheba.
■ IT’S COMMON knowledge that promises made by politicians are generally promises that are not meant to be kept. But when a cabinet makes a decision, there is an anticipation that this decision will be carried out. Cabinets have made many decisions with regard to Sderot over the years but, in most cases, have failed to honor them. That explains why Sderot Mayor David Buskila went on a hunger strike last Wednesday and set up a protest tent complete with national flag and Sderot standard outside the Prime Minister’s Office.
Of the NIS 70 million allocated by the government to Sderot, only NIS 7m. was transferred. As a result, Sderot has a huge deficit, cannot pay its workers and cannot supply basic municipal services. Buskila made many attempts to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but unless something has changed since this newspaper went to press, Buskila is going to experience the cold of Jerusalem’s autumn nights for quite a while yet. After all, previous hunger strikers, including senior citizens, were left to sweat it out until their health was seriously endangered, and that’s what’s likely to happen now unless Netanyahu takes the Sderot vote into account in the upcoming elections.
Buskila has been visited by ministers and Knesset members, but under existing circumstances there isn’t much they can do for him. Some of the residents of Sderot have temporarily moved to Jerusalem to demonstrate solidarity with the mayor, and other tents have been set up in Tel Aviv this week, but there’s no guarantee that this will bring any pressure to bear on the prime minister.
It’s bad enough that Sderot is a perpetual target of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza and that there are children who were born into this situation and do not know the meaning of ongoing tranquility, says Buskila, but to also deny the residents of Sderot the services enjoyed by residents of other towns and cities in Israel is inexcusable.
■ HAIFA MAYOR Yona Yahav, who is not quite in the same position as Buskila, has nonetheless blasted a series of governments for turning Tel Aviv into the second capital of Israel at the expense of peripheral communities. Cities and towns in the north and the south of the country are losing their young people, Yahav contends, because they are flocking to Tel Aviv for jobs, for culture and for leisure activities. Yahav wants the next incoming government to devote more resources to peripheral municipalities to facilitate more jobs to curtail the exodus of the young.
■ MODI’IN HAS acquired a new institution – the Barkai Center for training rabbis in practical rabbinics so they can become effective community leaders and a unifying force in their communities. Twenty recently ordained rabbis have been accepted into the intensive two-year program. The Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics, which is presided over by former chief rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Yisrael Meir Lau, whose son Rabbi David Lau is the chief rabbi of Modi’in, is the brainchild of Rabbi Shlomo Sobol and David Fine.