In Tiberias, Haredi boys harass mayoral candidate hostile to their community

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Ron Cobi, second from left, is heckled by Haredi boys on February 27, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)
Ron Cobi, second from left, is heckled by Haredi boys on February 27, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

Outside an elementary school in Tiberias, about a dozen Haredi boys trail Ron Cobi, a mayoral candidate whose campaign revolves around limiting the presence of the growing community to which the children belong.

The children gather around Cobi, who arrived at Ehrlich Elementary School to vote in the local elections. One of them hurls a wad of unused voting slips at Cobi, but the notes scatter around before hitting the politician. The children shout: “Bye-bye Ron Cobi, Bye-bye!”

Two policemen shoo the boys away.

The encounter reflects a yearslong hostility between the Haredi community of Tiberias and Cobi, a former mayor whose first term in 2018 was cut short because he couldn’t pass a budget, prompting the interior ministry to appoint a caretaker mayor and council. “You see, this is what the rest of the country will all look like unless we put a stop to it,” Cobi tells journalists documenting the exchange.

Tiberias’s population rose from 45,000 to 51,000 in five years, a growth whose engine is the arrival of Haredi families to new neighborhoods on the mountains overlooking the city’s lakeside center. Haredim now make up 20% of the population, and some locals say that this development is responsible for the decline in tourism and nightlife here, although others dispute this explanation.

Cobi is in a neck-to-neck race with Yossi Naba’a, a former communications technology executive, who is secular but enjoys the endorsement of influential Haredi rabbis.

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