It’s been a challenging year. I think everyone can agree on that. For many, the year has included economic hardships and anxieties about a breakdown of unity and cohesion. The people of Israel are more polarized than ever, and the bonds that have kept our country strong feel to be fraying. As we look toward a new year we are presented with two distinct options. The easy thing to do would be to continue on a path of destruction and division. Unfortunately, today it is by far the path of least resistance. Our other option is far more difficult, it requires us to listen to one another, to accept our differences and to be proud of them, to let go of that sectarian ego that so many of us hold dear. It requires us to accept that far more unites us than divides us.
Now more than ever, it may feel that politics and elections can only further divide us, however, there are parties running on platforms of unity and dialogue, I have the privilege and responsibility of leading one. We have been doing this for fifteen years now, in the most complex city on earth. ‘Hitorerut in Jerusalem’ has been working to bring together Yerushalmim of all backgrounds, working as a platform to connect people, facilitate healthy dialogue about what is best for Jerusalem, and how to work together to achieve it. This is why it was so important to us to build a list of candidates that can represent all of Jerusalem and that will help us bring the people of Jerusalem closer together. Our list brings together voters on the right, left, religious, and secular in order to create a Jerusalem where young people want to stay, where families of all kinds can grow, and where all Jerusalemites can feel at home.
It’s important to mention that there are those running for city council that seek only to divide us further, from right & left. Jerusalem doesn’t need further polarization. For example, Aryeh King, Ben Gvir’s representative in Jerusalem has presented a municipal platform stark in its extremism. King seeks to make Jerusalem a toxic and unsafe environment for those who he sees as different. He has spent the last decade attacking secular jews, religious jews who he doesn’t see as religious enough, the LGBT community, and even christian tourists. Such an extreme agenda is incompatible with the values of unity and tolerance that so many of us hold dear.
Unfortunately there are even those who claim to hold such values who continue to sit with King on the city council and legitimize his extreme and divisive agenda. Yossi Havilio, who announced this week that he is running for mayor has sat next to King for five years and stood by while he attacked Jerusalem’s most vulnerable communities. This week, as Hitorerut announced its list, I called upon Havilio to leave the coalition of the city council, and to promise that he would not sit with King on the next council, thus ensuring a strong liberal and zionist bloc on the council. Unfortunately, I am yet to receive a response.
As this year comes to a close we must ask ourselves if next year we will be bold enough to overcome our divisions and choose a future of unity and strength. On the 31st of October we have the opportunity to take a step towards creating that future when we cast our votes for city council.
I wish to all a Shana Tova, a year of unity, of happiness, of success, and strength.