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Pluralistic about pluralism

It is time for the moderate forces in Jerusalem to unite and preserve the city as one that has a place for everyone.

As a candidate for Jerusalem city council I am proud to belong to the Yerushalmim party, led by City Councilwoman Rachel Azaria, especially because it is a pluralistic party. That being said I do have a problem with the word Pluralism, it has so many meanings and connotations. While one person may use the word to indicate a post-modern deconstructionist worldview, another could simply use it to express “recognition of a multiplicity of legitimate interests and stakeholders.” In general I prefer terms that say exactly what I mean, but when it comes to Yerushalmim I like the word, and am willing to recognize a multiplicity of legitimate definitions. I suppose that among the different world views expressed in our list of candidates for city council, you will also find different interpretations of what pluralism means. I am pluralistic regarding pluralism.

The reason this is so is that I believe that the moderates of this city must unite forces in order to preserve our city as one that has a place for all. The polarization and factionalism that has defined municipal politics in Jerusalem’s past is tragic for this capital city, a city whose name comes for the word shalem, meaning that which is whole, or shalom, peace. Make no mistake, there are still those who would be very happy bringing a black and white world view to the fore, disenfranchising anyone who does not see things their way, making this a foreign, unfriendly, and difficult place to live. There are others who choose to crusade against this trend, fanatically opposing the fanatics, exacerbating the hatred, tearing us apart. But neither of these camps represents hope for the city of Shalom, the city of Unity.

A pluralistic world view can also be simply on the surface, a live and let live vision of tolerance. This in itself would be an achievement, but I believe that the majority of moderates in Jerusalem expect and deserve something deeper. The true value of a diverse community is in the quality of the discourse it can create and the creativity that it can give birth to. We recently read the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The story begins with a description of an entire civilization with one language and one purpose, and ends with God’s mixing of languages. While some may read this as a punishment or hindrance to building the tower, I believe it is not punitive rather corrective. God desired a diverse world, one which would challenge people to encounter other cultures and perspectives leading the world to develop and evolve, and here humanity was asserting a monolithic vision of the world. This is not good says God.

In a world of limited resources it is very easy to subscribe to a zero sum world view, there is not enough to go around, I will fight to take as much as I can, and whatever you receive is my loss. This attitude has thus far been the attitude of the sectorial parties in city council. As a man of faith I prefer to trust that God is able to provide each community with what it needs, and that whatever abundance or scarcity may exist, it should be shared. “Love your neighbor as yourself” we are told and yet when it comes to our communities we allow ourselves to be self-centered and take no responsibility for others. This is wrong in my view. Once one begin to see things this way one’s focus shifts from power games to creative problem solving, how can we fix things so that everyone’s needs are met?

The Dati Leumi community has suffered in the past from a lack of unity, we are not Charedim and do not vote in a block. My argument here is not only that the sectorial approach is not working, it is wrong. As we see today in the Knesset there is a new window of opportunity for a unified moderate camp that transcends religious labels. In Yerushalmim we have formed a covenant of trust within a camp of diverse Jewish voices. All for one and one for all is the environment, and the experience is redemptive. It is a groundbreaking approach that also represents the possibility of a more ethical and idealistic political environment, one based on dialogue and trust.

About the Author
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz is the Chairman of the Lev Hair Minhal Kehilati and the Secretary General of the Yerushalmim party in Jerusalem City Council
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