Secular Revolt? Not Quite.

The best analysis I’ve seen of Nir Barkat’s election victory in Jerusalem, and how the press has misreported it as a “secular upheaval,” is Amos Goldberg’s at Ynet. Unfortunately, it’s only up in Hebrew. If you read from right to left, click the link. If not, here’s a taste.

…In Jerusalem, this strict and destructive dichotomy between “religious” and “secular” as two options that exclude each other doesn’t exist.

Jerusalem is a city of daily interactions that allow countless possibility across a wide range of identities. The distinction between “religious” and “secular” in Jerusalem is a soft one, not polar and compartmentalized…

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Oy, Jerusalem

Reading pre-election polls, I used to wonder how a person could intend firmly to vote yet be undecided. If you cared enough to vote, you had to have an opinion. If you didn’t like the candidates, you could still choose the lesser evil – and you were morally obligated to vote for the lesser evil, lest the greater evil win.

I have shed my patronizing attitude. Tomorrow I am supposed to vote for mayor of Jerusalem. I care deeply, and I’m undecided. Indeed, I’m more undecided than I was several weeks ago. I still believe in the obligation to vote for the lesser evil. But which of the major candidates – Nir Barkat or Meir Porush – qualifies for that dubious title?

Let me phrase the dilemma – as my wife did – in terms of risk: There’s an large chance that Porush will fulfill at least some of the the dark predictions of his critics. There’s a slighter lesser risk that Barkat will do what critics fear – but the damage he could cause is much greater. Electing Barkat mayor is akin to hoping that a pyromaniac keeps his matches buried in his pocket.

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Barkat by Default

Haim Watzman

I just got a call from Meir Porush‘s campaign central. Would I be voting for the Haredi candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, the polite young woman asked me? No, I won’t, I said. I’ll be voting for the rival candidate, Nir Barkat. And to hell with my blogging partner, Gershom, whose concern for an equitable settlement with the Palestinians in Jerusalem (justified) and his abiding suspicion of rich businessmen (somewhat less justified) has misled him into support for Porush (see “Sorry, Nir Barkat Will Not Save Jerusalem“).

Like Gershom, I’m extremely displeased rhetoric Barkat’s Greater Jerusalem rhetoric, which rules out any compromise with the Palestinians in the capital city. Barkat’s recent promise to build a new neighborhood for students in easternmost East Jerusalem seems to indicate either a willful ignorance of the state of the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods or a desire to pander to the extreme right.

But Porush is hardly a leftie on this issue. He, too, declares that he will keep Jerusalem united.

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Sorry, Nir Barkat Will Not Save Jerusalem

A lot of my friends in Jerusalem think that mayoral candidate Nir Barkat will save the city. There are generally two arguments they offer: First, he’s a former high-tech entrepreneur, and the business world produces better managers than the political arena does.

Second, and much more important, Barkat is secular. Among secular, traditional, and modern-leaning Orthodox Jewish residents of Jerusalem there’s a backlash against ultra-Orthodox hegemony at City Hall. There’s a pervading sense that ultra-Orthodox rule is responsible for the city’s economic decline, and for the exodus of young people. The conventional wisdom is that the ultra-Orthodox are on the demographic march toward turning Jerusalem into a giant neo-shtetl, big sister to Bnei Brak. Barkat is supposed to be the solution.

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