Ofer Berkovitch for Mayor…with your help!

Yes we can.

Yes Jerusalem, YOU can.

The second round of elections tomorrow for Jerusalem mayor are crucial for the city’s future. The ultra-Orthodox political machine has thrown its weight behind mayoral candidate Moshe Lion – a candidate who isn’t from Jerusalem but moved to the city five years ago in order to run for mayor. To explain exactly what it means is to know this: Lion received zero city council mandates for his own party in the first election round. His entire support base came from the Degel HaTorah and Shas parties – but they voted for their own parties for city council!

Why did they vote for Lion for mayor?

1) There is a national deal at work here in which Lion’s patron, Avigdor Liberman, will give the ultra-Orthodox the things that they want in the Knesset in return for their supporting his candidate in Jerusalem. Not about what is best for Jerusalem, but just more political wheeling and dealing with Jerusalem as one of the cards.

2) They specifically wanted a candidate who has no support base of his own so that the new mayor will be completely beholden to them. Or as Aryeh Deri has been quoted as saying, “I will be the one running Jerusalem.”

So the choice for voters is simple: A city run by Moshe Lion who couldn’t even win his own seat on the city council, is not from Jerusalem, and who will in essence be run by Aryeh Deri (who the police are on the verge of recommending indicting for fraud and money laundering) as part of a national political deal; OR, a city run by Ofer Berkovitch – a well-established native Jerusalemite who served as an officer in an elite combat unit, entered local politics out of a passion and love for his hometown,  who served Jerusalem for the last ten years as a city council member, four years as deputy mayor, and head of the Hitorerut party, which is now the largest in City Hall, winning seven city council seats.

There is a reason why the cleanest of the cleanest politicians who are objective and able to discern what is best for Jerusalem without concern for backroom political deals – such as former defense minister Moshe Arens, MK Benny Begin and MK Orly Levy-Abekasis ­– have publicly endorsed Ofer.  

But for Ofer Berkovitch to win, you not only have to vote yourself, but you must bring out others to vote as well. The rabbis are telling the ultra-Orthodox community to come out and vote for Lion. Aryeh Deri is even evoking Satan, saying Ofer is causing problems for his candidate and the voters must defeat Satan. So there has to be a major effort bring out the vote – from moderate ultra-Orthodox to secular – to support the unifying candidacy of Berkovitch.

There are many who may think that because the Degel HaTorah and Shas parties have backed Lion, Ofer Berkovich does not stand a chance. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The 2018 election for mayor of Bet Shemesh proved it.

For the past 10 years, Bet Shemesh has been under the leadership of Mayor Moshe Abutbol from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. During his reign, the ultra-Orthodox community grew to become a majority of the city’s population, and the small, extremist element of this camp was emboldened to reign and wreak havoc on parts of the city. Abutbol was crowned by the ultra-Orthodox political and rabbinic establishments to continue for a third term, seemingly securing his re-election.

Indeed, the mayor did not even bother running a campaign until a few weeks before the election. While Abutbol remained silent relying on the political machine, and the rabbis who issued declarations saying a vote for his opponent is a “desecration of God’s name” Dr. Aliza Bloch, a woman from the religious Zionist camp, was canvassing the city and campaigning before every possible community, including the ultra-Orthodox. She laid out her vision for a better future for all city residents: a well-run, professionally managed city that will provide services that had been neglected for years. She also spoke of city unity, breaking down barriers, and an end to the tension between populations that became Bet Shemesh’s identity during the Abutbol years.

And when Election Day came, a higher than average percentage from the broader population came out to vote, while thousands of ultra-Orthodox Bet Shemesh residents broke from the demands of the rabbis and voted for a religious Zionist woman to be their mayor. Dr. Bloch won by 550 votes.

Ofer Berkovitch has support from a cross section of Jerusalem, including many ultra-Orthodox residents who want what is best for their city – just like the haredim who voted for Aliza Bloch in Bet Shemesh. Ofer will maintain the status quo in Jerusalem on religious matters, and focus on running the city for all its citizens.

So no matter what your background or political affiliation, vote for Ofer Berkovitch to be the new mayor of Jerusalem. Even more importantly, go and bring 20 other people who were going to stay home and not bother voting to get out and vote.

 The future of Jerusalem is at stake. It’s in your hands to do something about it.

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of nine books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He is the founder and CEO of Yad L'Olim, an NGO that assists and advocates for Olim from around the world.