It’s hard to miss out on the Jerusalem election campaign that is now reaching its zenith. The list of candidates has solidified and the campaigns are ramping up. Faces of the hopefuls are plastered on posters around the city, on the sides of buildings and houses, buses and bridges.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the faces of some have come under attack. It started when Hitorerut posters bearing my own picture were destroyed. Then, Rachel Azaria’s bus advertisements were defaced and other women seemed to feel pressured to remove their pictures from their party’s advertisements.
The situation on the streets was reflective of the reality of Israeli politics. Female representation in local politics is extremely low across the country. In Jerusalem, only six of 31 council members are women, up from four immediately following the 2013 elections. Today, there are still lists that do not include women (and not just Haredi lists).
Therefore, when I first saw my own picture displayed around the streets of Jerusalem, I was filled with pride. Not because I was on a poster, but because it was an important step in improving women’s representation among the city’s leadership. I experienced it as a personal victory over those extremists who try time after time to remove women from the public sphere.
Attempts to erase women from the city have not been met with silence. Some months ago, the faces of Yonit Levy and Rotem Sela were literally defaced from advertisements. In response, Hitorerut activists hung pictures of Rosa Parks and Golda Meir over the destroyed photos. The message to the extremists who attacked the photos was clear: Women would not be removed from the public sphere.
My first personal experience with the destruction of my likeness occurred during the last election. I remember the day well and the moment that I saw the destroyed campaign poster. I can recall the overwhelming feelings, the pain, the sadness. How could this happen to me in my city, in my beloved home? I also remember how I forced myself to remain measured, to not get angry though it would be natural. Instead, I took that energy and put it to use to work for Jerusalem.
On that day I promised Jerusalemites and myself that I would fight against this ugly phenomenon with all my strength and prove to the extremists that they could not win. Here we are, five years later, and I am fulfilling my promise by once again being displayed prominently around the streets of Jerusalem. From the posters I cry out “We have defeated you!” We must never refrain from putting our images in the public sphere.
I am proud of the fact that women are in important leadership positions in Hitorerut and on its posters. I hope all the other candidates, even our fiercest competitors, continue displaying women in their campaigns as well. I also hope that more women will pursue leadership roles within parties and places of leadership. We are certainly stronger together and offer too much to stand on the sidelines.