New right-wing, ultra-Orthodox list enters Jerusalem mayoral race

New right-wing, ultra-Orthodox list enters Jerusalem mayoral race

‘United’ faction, headed by settlement activist Aryeh King, seeks to garner the Haredi and national religious vote in October’s municipal elections

Jerusalem City Council member Aryeh King. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jerusalem City Council member Aryeh King. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A new right-wing, ultra-Orthodox electoral list was launched in Jerusalem this week, in a bid to to unite the Haredi and national religious vote in the municipal elections later this year.

The “United” faction includes ultra-Orthodox and national religious figures, and is headed by a right-wing activist and Jerusalem city councilman, Aryeh King.

Second on the list is Yonatan Yosef, a representative of the ultra-Orthodox Yachad party, and the grandson of late Sephardi Chief Rabbi and Shas party founder Ovadia Yosef.

Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Dov Kalmanovich, a member of the national religious Jewish Home Knesset faction, will serve as third on the list.

The faction was officially launched Thursday at the home of leading Sephardic rabbi Meir Mazuz, who endorsed the faction and called on the city’s ultra-Orthodox community to vote for the candidates “who are fighting for the Sabbath… and will keep the sanctity of Jerusalem,” according to Haredi news site Srugim.

At the launch, King vowed to maintain a unified Jerusalem “with a clear Jewish majority, and reversing the demographic trend over the last decade in which the Arab population has steadily increased.”

King is the founder and director of the Israel Land Fund, an organization promoting efforts to settle Jews in the West Bank and in Arab-majority neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

“We don’t want to survive, we want to rule,” he was quoted as saying by Channel 10 news.

An ultra-Orthodox man votes at a polling station during Israel’s municipal elections, October 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Yosef in his remarks slammed current and former city council members for supporting “Sabbath desecrations and building plans that endangered the Jewish future of Jerusalem.” In an apparent jab at outgoing mayor Nir Barkat, Yosef claimed that in recent years synagogues in Jerusalem were destroyed, and municipal budgets had “been allocated to festivals, Reform Jews, and the overall erosion of the sanctity of Jerusalem.”

United is hoping to capitalize on the 32 percent of the city’s population that identifies as ultra-Orthodox — and whose voter share is even higher since the city’s Arab residents generally boycott the municipal elections.

Tensions run high between the capital’s ultra-Orthodox communities, particularly where religious observance of the Sabbath is concerned. In Jerusalem, Shabbat is observed far more strictly than in secular Tel Aviv. Few restaurants and cultural facilities are open on Saturdays, and secular residents who drive in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods risk having their cars stoned.

Each opening of a new corner store or facility on Shabbat is met by ultra-Orthodox protests and secular complaints that religious residents are trying to impose their beliefs on the whole city.

Jerusalem’s municipal elections on October 30 will see Deputy Mayor Moshe Lion, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, ex-deputy Jerusalem mayor and city councilwoman Rachel Azaria, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, and political activist Ofer Berkovich vie for the leadership of Israel’s capital.

Barkat, who announced earlier this year he would not seek a third term as mayor and instead run for the Knesset with the ruling Likud party, has endorsed Elkin, a fellow Likud member and ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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