Saturday, August 24th | 23 Av 5779

Subscribe
October 19, 2018 11:32 am

Jerusalem Vote: A Weathervane on Ultra-Orthodox Jews In Israel

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

A campaign poster depicting ultra-Orthodox Jewish candidate in Jerusalem’s mayoral election Yossi Daitsh, Oct. 18, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.

As a member of the largest Jewish religious community in Jerusalem, Yossi Daitsh should have a big lead in the holy city’s mayoral election race.

But Daitsh, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, is trailing three more liberal candidates ahead of the Oct. 30 ballot, when municipal polls are held nationally.

Some political analysts see that as a sign the ultra-Orthodox — known in Hebrew as “haredim,” or piously “awe-struck” — feel freer to vote according to personal preference and independent of their rabbis’ rulings.

If so, the Jerusalem mayoral race could be a bellwether of ultra-Orthodox integration in wider Israeli society, where welfare benefits and military draft exemptions for the community have long been resented by the secular middle-class.

Related coverage

August 23, 2019 4:13 pm
0

Palestinian Rioters Again Raise Nazi Swastika on Israel-Gaza Border

For the second time this month, a Nazi swastika symbol was raised by Palestinian rioters on the Israel-Gaza Strip border...

But reluctance among the ultra-Orthodox to rally around any single candidate also points to long-standing political splits among the community’s three main streams in Jerusalem, which has had only one haredi mayor, from 2003 to 2008.

Yair Ettinger, a scholar with the Israel Democracy Institute and the Shalom Hartman Institute, said ultra-Orthodox society is at a turning point, with some members breaking away from rabbis’ rulings, and “this may well manifest in the Jerusalem election.”

Ultra-Orthodox men have traditionally stayed out of the military and workforce by devoting themselves to full-time religious studies.

That has raised concern that a lack of skills within the community will ultimately harm Israel’s long-term economic health and many Israelis would rather see them integrate into mainstream society.

Fuelled by high birthrates, the ultra-Orthodox make up 10 percent of Israel’s majority Jews, and more than triple that — 36 percent — in Jerusalem.

In the Jerusalem municipality’s administrative city council, haredim hold 14 of the 31 seats. One survey, on Oct. 12, predicted that could drop to 8 in the upcoming vote — indicating a shift of haredi support to non-Orthodox party lists.

Twenty-one percent of Jerusalem Jews are secular, like the election frontrunner — former Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch — and the outgoing incumbent mayor, Nir Barkat. Another 43 percent are non-haredi but religiously traditional.

Palestinians, who make up a third of Jerusalem’s population, are mostly boycotting the election, as they have done for decades, in protest at Israel’s control of East Jerusalem since the Six-Day War in 1967.

Black-coated and heavily bearded, Daitsh, a 50-year-old grandfather, has cast widely for votes. His online biography plays up his years of army service, a haredi rarity. He joined Twitter last month and sent his first selfie last week.

He has been endorsed by one ultra-Orthodox branch, while the two others have backed career bureaucrat Moshe Lion, a non-haredi, a candidate opinion polls put in second place.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

Algemeiner.com

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.