October 25: Readers react to local elections

Barkat’s tepid victory could easily spell tomorrow’s trouncing unless very serious steps are taken to build the city’s commercial appeal.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Sir, – With regard to “Mayors of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa reelected in municipal races” (October 24), residents of our capital city are fortunate that Moshe Lion lost. But we are not especially fortunate that Nir Barkat won.
Indeed, the tepid turnout among the sort of voters who care about our city (as opposed to those who vote like sheep at the behest of crooked and less-crooked rabbis) should give the incumbent pause.
Barkat’s tepid victory could easily spell tomorrow’s trouncing unless very serious steps are taken to build the city’s commercial appeal, make affordable housing available and radically expand the base of households that pay municipal taxes.
Achieving these goals will take iron will. It would mean standing up to both the politically monolithic haredim, who have zero interest in the overall health and well-being of the city, and to the rapacious business interests that have turned our irreplaceable real estate into a feeding frenzy for absentee showoffs with bottomless pockets.
Suffice it to say that the ward heeler who came knocking on my door on Barkat’s behalf confided in me that he and his young family would be fleeing Jerusalem, as he believed there was no way he’d find suitable employment or an affordable apartment in his beloved city.
Sir, – I’m disgusted by the very low turnout for local elections (“Voter turnout low across country in municipal races,” October 23).
Anyone who could vote but didn’t doesn’t deserve to live in a democracy. They have now forfeited any right to complain about decisions made by elected officials that they don’t agree with.
There are enough parties to choose from, even if you have to hold your nose while you vote. Having a party with at least some policies you like is enough.WILLIE MALKINSON Ra’anana
Sir, – As one of the persons shown in the photo accompanying the article “Eight arrested for voter fraud in Beit Shemesh” (October 23), I can tell you we were in fact protesting the banner, which said, “True religious Jews vote Abutbul.” The signs in our hands read: “Vote for whomever you want, but don’t let them tell you who the ‘true’ religious Jews are.”
After seeing the sign by the polling station, I and so many others were appalled at the sheer chutzpah.
This was the same campaign in which imagery included haredi children behind barbed wire, evocative of a “holocaust” that would evidently take place for the religious citizens of Beit Shemesh should challenger Eli Cohen become mayor. It was the same campaign where loudspeakers blasted out the prayer “Avinu Malkeinu... remove the counsel of our enemies,” language typically reserved for the likes of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was the same campaign whose central rallying cry was over Cohen’s lack of a yarmulke, that he was out to destroy the religious character of the city and the Torah sages forbade voting for him.
I understand that the unfortunate nature of elections is that they often devolve into negativity and lies. But what I find so disturbing here is not simply the abysmally low level of degrading and offensive rhetoric – it is that the more thoughtful and conscientious religious Jews among reelected Mayor Moshe Abutbul’s supporters did not speak out against it.
The elections are over but the defeat is not merely that of a much-maligned Eli Cohen – it is people’s religious ideals and sincerity coming in second place to their communal and political affiliations. If we intend on building a productive and peaceful society here in Israel, this is a defeat we must all commit ourselves to rectifying.