Monday, November 10, 2008

Local polls

Municipal elections tomorrow. In Jerusalem (which already has an ultra-orthodox mayor) haredi candidate Meir Porush has been driven to visiting pubs in a last ditch effort to pick up votes against secular hi-tech tycoon rival Nir Barkat. The ladies on TV from once staunchly secular Ramat Eshkol had no doubt for whom they were going to vote (even if they couldn't remember his name for the moment). Anyone but the ultra-orthodox who are changing theface of their neighbourhood. One of them woke up to find a placard outside her door advising her to dress modestly so as not to offend the eyes of her religious neighbours.

If the battle for the management of poor, bedraggled Jerusalem is being waged , at least symbolically, over the souls of its residents in the religious sense of the term, a different battle is being waged over the Godless souls of Tel Aviv. Here too, two conflicting world views seem to be clashing. On the left, the communist, non-Zionist hard working Knesset member Dov Hanin who, with strong green credentials, is heading a loose coalition of non-partisan community activists. Their platform - to give the city back to the people by ridding it of the domination of the automobile and the political machinations of city hall. On the right, the incumbent two-term mayor Ron Huldai (backed by Labour and Kadima), a gruff and hard-nosed former air force officer, who has spruced up Tel Aviv and turned it into a magnet for the rich. Thanks to a word of mouth and internet buzz and his adoption by celebs, the emaciated and non-charismatic Hanin has come out of nowhere to place an easy victory by the formidable Huldai in doubt. On the opinion pages of the local and national papers there are some who are even comparing Hanin to Obama (hah!) and saying that if this strait-laced green /red nerd defeats Huldai it would be a victory for the sort of change the whole country needs.

The incumbent

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