For a better Jerusalem

Third generation built the Israeli economy – an economy that not only survives but thrives through the highs and lows of this volatile region.

Stone houses in Jerusalem (photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
Stone houses in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
At the start of our campaign for the 2013 city council, as we began to build our campaign platform, our team met with a publicist. The first question the publicist asked was, “ok, so who do you hate?” We were slightly baffled by the question, and promptly answered that we do not believe in the politics of hatred and did not dislike or hate anyone. The publicist looked perplexed and went on to the next question: “Who are you afraid of?” Again we answered that as we had proven in the 2008 election, we are not afraid of anyone. The talented publicist smiled politely, and said this approach was no way to run an election campaign as it is common practice to first define who you fear and then launch one’s own campaign of intimidation against your foes.
He confidently asserted that this was the way all successful electoral campaigns had been managed in the State of Israel for the past 20 years, capitalizing on the well known fact that the Israeli public is fragmented and contains many different groups that strongly dislike each other.
He went on to say that in Jerusalem it is even worse, as each group wakes up every morning hoping that the other groups will have just disappeared. Again, we smiled and said that we all love and are extremely connected to all of Jerusalem. The publicist started to smile, turned to our creative team and said, “so this is who you are, the folks who do, who implement, who get results on behalf of all the city’s residents.”
From that moment on our approach was seen as somewhat of an innovation in the Israeli political arena. Campaigning in Israel until that point had been driven by voters choosing camps and spreading fear about the other groups rather than simply presenting who they are, what they have done and what they plan to do.
In this year’s campaign for city council our biggest challenge as a list has been the changing of the deeply entrenched patterns of the Israeli voter, from voting by group or party to voting out of recognition of accomplishment. To create an electorate that is not influenced by hatred or fear but rather believes in the values of positive partnerships.
Since the creation of the State of Israel, each generation has had its own historical role and particular challenge. The first generation was comprised of our founding fathers whose task was to build the country and ensure its continued survival in the face of existential threat.
The second generation was charged with fighting wars and overcoming enemies seeking to exterminate the fledgling Jewish state – it was the generation of security through military victory.
The third generation built the Israeli economy – an economy that not only survives but thrives through the highs and lows of this volatile region.
What is the task of our generation, the fourth generation? Our task it to create a societal structure based on real values and character that engages in the true meaning of being a citizen of the Jewish state.
In my opinion, the 2011 summer social protests were precisely that; the Israeli public shouting from the rooftops that as a country we need to tackle our identity and decide who we are and what we want our country to look like. The social protests ignited the conversation and our generation is tasked with continuing the unfinished business of crystallizing and actualizing 21st-century Jewish-Israeli identity.
The upcoming elections for Jerusalem city council present us with the unique opportunity to express the substance of our generation’s task. Across the country new blocs and electoral lists have sprouted up expressing precisely these desires – to seek out mutually beneficial partnerships; to organize and consolidate areas of concern and action in order to build a better future for our cities and our communities.
The best-case scenario for our future is a politics based on a shared concern for the city and all of its inhabitants, grounded in action and accomplishment – precisely the opposite of the politics which have been the norm in Israel; the politics that relies on fear, sectorial issues winning at the expense of others – the task of this generation is to defeat the politics of the zero-sum game.
Gaderatayim in Gadera aims to unify natives and newcomers, secular and traditional; an approach that strengthens all sectors of Gadera’s society by strengthening neighborhoods and schools and communities for all the city’s residents.
Ashdodim is a group of young, second-generation residents of Ashdod who are religious and secular, old and young – all working on the politics of hope.
I am proud to head the Yerushalmim list, which has brought together residents from across the secular and religious spectrum. Our mission is to make this city better; we want to partner with others in finding ways to inspire, empower and serve all of Jerusalem’s residents, and not just those who vote for us or have the stronger voices.
This is what sets us, and the Ashdodim and Gaderatayim and the other similar lists across the country, apart. We do not focus on what others did not do, but on what we managed to accomplish, the principles we stand for and are willing to stand by at any cost.
In my experience, the potential for improving our city is significant and the decisions made at the city council are critical in this noble endeavor. The time has come for our leaders to be real leaders and serve their residents in an honest and efficient way.
Yerushalmim, Gederatayim, Ashdodim...
all Israelis. The time for action is now, together let’s start the work of our generation, let us be an example for the rest of the country and declare with our vote that the days of zero-sum politics are over.
We have a lofty task ahead, we are defining our identity and showing that we vote for hope over fear and action over empty rhetoric.
On October 22, whoever you choose to vote for, make your vote a positive one.
The author is head of the Yerushalmim list.