Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

15 Av 5759 - July 28, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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by Betzalel Kahn

Chadash, the Beit Shemesh weekly, reports that protests are intensifying against the mayor of Beit Shemesh, Dani Vaknin. Vaknin is all doing everything in his power to restrict the city's chareidi community. The battle being waged by UTJ representatives in the municipality, Rabbi Eliezer Greenbaum and Rabbi Avrohom Berger, who are in the opposition, received reinforcements last week by the representatives of Shas, who are members of the coalition and hold a broad range of senior positions.

For many months, the UTJ representatives have been hurling sharp claims against the mayor, who had made numerous promises to the UTJ list prior to the elections in exchange for chareidi electoral support at the instructions of gedolei Yisroel which he received. But since the elections ten months ago, he has ignored all of his promises.

Vaknin has blatantly violated the written agreement he signed with UTJ on the eve of the elections. Residents of the city's chareidi neighborhoods are not treated on the same footing as the city's other residents. Most of the public property slated for educational institutions in Ramat Beit Shemesh is given to the secular and the national-religious communities and not to the chareidim, who constitute a majority of the residents of the neighborhood. A structure with 12 classrooms, standing in the heart of the chareidi area, is left empty rather than being transferred to the chareidi school system.

At the time of the forming of the coalition ten months ago, it was also joined by Shas city council members. They received a broad range of positions, among them that of deputy mayor and the head of the Torah Culture and Chareidi Education Departments.

Threats of senior Shas officials to leave the coalition have spurred Likud activists in Beit Shemesh to send a letter to the mayor, in which they complain about the municipality's and the mayor's attitude toward the chareidi community, calling it a "discriminatory attitude which will in the end induce Shas to join the opposition, and lead to a state in which a Likud member will no longer preside as mayor."

The Likud activists wrote that "there are rumors that the Mayor and his deputy, Shalom Edri, do not want to run for reelection in the next term of office because their pensions are guaranteed and that, as a result, they feel no need to keep their agreements with the coalition partners. The activists claim that the Committee for Municipal Support has not convened in over six months, something which has caused considerable difficulty to city kollelim and chessed organizations. The Department for Chareidi Education has not received a budget and is not functioning. The Department for Torah Culture has not received the budget it was promised."

Incipient threats by Shas were revealed at the last city council meeting, when Shas senior members demonstratively boycotted the council meeting, making it clear that this was not the end of the battle led by UTJ in conjunction with Shas in the council.

In other local news, the new Beit Shemesh neighborhoods boast new names. No longer called merely Alef and Bet, the former Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef and Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet (Zano'ach) have received new, permanent names as a result of an initiative of the Beit Shemesh weekly newspaper, Chadash and with the encouragement of city chareidi activists.

Ramat Beit Shemesh will now be called Ramat Hanecholim, since its streets are named after rivers. Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet (Zano'ach) will be called Ramat Hatanoim, since its streets are named after our sacred tanoim.

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