Ultra-Orthodox vandals deface Jerusalem ads of female mayoral candidate
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Ultra-Orthodox vandals deface Jerusalem ads of female mayoral candidate

Posters for Rachel Azaria's coexistence campaign ripped off of bus in capital; MK blames 'fringe group'

Ultra-Orthodox vandals in Jerusalem on Sunday night defaced campaign posters of MK Rachel Azaria, the sole female candidate in the October mayoral race in the capital.

Footage provided by a spokesperson showed some half-dozen Haredi men approaching a bus and removing the banner with Azaria’s face and the slogan, “Believe it, we can live together,” as passersby look on.

The campaign was set to be officially launched on Monday, after the ads were posted on 300 buses in the capital, a spokesperson said.

“The violent attempt to harm the elections does not represent Jerusalem, Jerusalemites, or the Haredi community,” said Azaria, an MK for the Kulanu party, in a statement. “The opposite is true. This is an extreme, fringe group.”

“We in Jerusalem know how to live together with mutual respect, even if it isn’t always easy. We won’t let the extremists make decisions for us,” she added.

For decades, there have been repeated incidents of posters featuring women defaced in the capital and other cities. The Egged bus company and its ad agency in the past have refused to put posters featuring females, including Azaria, on buses for fear of vandalism.

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews object to photos of women in public places or media on the grounds of modesty.

Azaria, a former Jerusalem deputy mayor, announced her candidacy in June, joining a crowded field of candidates vying for the leadership of Israel’s capital.

Other prominent candidates include Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Deputy Mayor Moshe Lion — who lost to Mayor Nir Barkat in the 2015 elections — and Ofer Berkovich, the 34-year-old head of the Hitorerut faction.

Berkovich, a city council member and former deputy mayor, enjoys the support of the secular public and some of the city’s more liberal religious residents.

A pair of lesser known candidates have also announced they will run on a secular ticket while two ultra-Orthodox deputy mayors have signaled their interest in running, hoping to capitalize on the 32 percent of the city’s population that identifies as Haredi — and whose voter share is even higher since the city’s Arab residents generally boycott the municipal vote.

Barkat, who announced in March he would not seek a third term 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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