(This was written Just a few hours Post Beit Shemesh Elections 2014)
It is almost 6:00 a.m. here in Beit Shemesh, Israel. I am fairly certain that I am but one of the many Eli Cohen campaign activists still not sleeping, contemplating how the Charedi Mayoral Candidate Moshe Abutbol and the Charedi community of Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh again pulled off a victory’ effectively gaining control of this Israeli town.
During the last election, there were many findings of fraud. This time it was the so-called unity of the Charedi community (which is actually many communities put together ) that is being heralded as what brought victory to the Charedi Mayor, Moshe Abutbol. Mayor Abutbol’s statement about he and his voters’ “Love of Truth” helped the Charedi community win the election, has those whose deep Love of Beit Shemesh, the State and Nation of Israel and of Truth – Eli Cohen’s supporters, reeling in shock. Why? Is it because Eli Cohen’s supporters are simply sore losers? That would be the easiest thing on which to pin the shock and upset they are feeling. Easiest, but not the truest reason.
You see, first of all, Eli Cohen’s supporters and his Beit Shemesh Chozeret Party (“Beit Shemesh’s [Big] Return”) fought hard and fairly for Truth in Fair Elections (note: their competitors never once accused them of cheating in the past elections – because there was no cheating on this side!) because this is how they have been running their campaign – cleanly. Secondly, Eli Cohen’s supporters were a mix of; the founding Moroccan immigrants as well the newer Olim (immigrants) from Russia and Ethiopia, North America, and other Zionists from Western countries. Traditional Sephardim, Secular Jews, Dati Leumi (National Religious) people and even some (moderate) Charedim composed the Eli Cohen Unity Camp. Here was a cross representation of Jewish Israel, people who love the Country and are proud to live together as the In-Gathering of the Exiles. This amazing mix of people worked together with true “Ahavat Yisrael” or Jewish Brotherly Love, and it was one of the motivating parts of the Eli Cohen campaign of which everyone in it was very proud. Eli Cohen also always spoke to his supporters of how he planned to create a Beit Shemesh that was fair and good and frutful for all Beit Shemesh citizens, and in his speeches included the Charedi population.I can attest to the many English speaking activists whose Zionism – love of the Land of Israel and its people was hugely motivating and invoked great pride. Love of Truth, as well as Love for the Land and the People of Israel was what brought Eli Cohen’s people together.By the way, we are still waiting for condemnation or apology by the Charedi community of the election fraud and the lies spread in the last election that Eli Cohen planned to secularize the city (as if he could in his wildest dreams make this overwhelmingly traditional – religious – charedi town secular!). We are waiting to hear the real importance of Truth.
And so I ask; how did Moshe Abutbol’s Charedi supporters once again win these elections? Was it because the Charedi population is so full of Love of Truth, and Unity, or was it their disdain for Eli Cohen and the Zionist population which unified them for their own purposes – to develop yet another Charedi based town in Israel? I for one, was told by a fellow Official Observer of the election – a Chassidic Charedi man, how he was voting for Abutbol but not because Abutbol was Charedi – as he claimed that “Abutbol isn’t really Charedi”. You can make your own conclusions about why this Chassidic Charedi Jew questioned the validity of our Sephardic Charedi Mayor’s “Charedi Qualifications”. After all, it was Abutbol’s Sepahardic roots and Shas party that got him many votes from non charedi Sephardic Beit Residents five years ago. He served the Charedim well. Was this “but he is not really Charedi” just a claim of one man, or, a common belief of those who see Mayor Abutbol merely as a conduit to making Beit Shemesh another Charedi town in Israel?
Secondly, the Extremist Charedi elements in Beit Shemesh who vowed never to vote in Israeli (“Zionist”) Elections actually allegedly took a “hatarat nedarim” (a relinquishing of their religious vows) never to vote in a state run elections (they reject the State of Israel and its institutions including its elections), and rejected their own so called religious beliefs in order to quash the efforts of the general Beit Shemesh populace to keep Beit Shemesh a City for All of its residents. So, they had to choose between their “religious principles” and fighting the “Zionists” and fight they chose to do. Through the Israeli electoral system – which they reject. Go figure….Thirdly, at the end of the day – is it religion, or is it politics – and a desire to control this city and to make it one of “theirs” that drove the various Charedi factions to so-called “unity”? Chassidim that don’t really consider their Mayor truly Charedi, Extremist Charedim willing to “break their vows” and actually vote in the electoral system of the “Zionist State” just to stop the Zionists from running the city, does this all sound like brotherly love and harmony or plain politics? I am afraid that today I cannot speak as optimistically as in my last blog. I can only tell you that the Eli Cohen Zionist Camp was filled with joint dreams of a Beit Shemesh for All ( including the Charedi public),something which Eli Cohen repeatedly instilled in his followers – I can swear to hearing thatfrom Eli’s own mouth – often (and no, I will not break this vow – I heard it and I believe Eli Cohen meant it and I too stick to it). We fought from the beginning fair and square to build a better Beit Shemsh for all. We still want to do that. Now we have to figure out what is our next step. I would love to say “mazal tov” to our Charedi kin, but as we don’t seem to be included – as of yet anyways, in their plans (except of course to pay hefty taxes to uphold their present and future town), so please forgive me if I don’t jump for joy at the cynical use of their “unity” to win this election. This Zionist isn’t quite ready to give up my dreams of building up and developing Israel and my City of Beit Shemesh where I raised my children, have terrific neighbors and warm locals. I just need to recover from the shock of these elections and together with my confreres who really love Beit Shemesh for the brotherhood we have experienced here, try to figure out where we go from here. Not to mention where and how we fit into this picture with our Charedi bretheren. Ohd Loh Avdah Tikvateinu – We Still Have Not Lost the Hope (from the National Israeli Anthem – Hatikvah).