Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5764 - November 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








UTJ is on the Map All Over the Country

by Y. Ariel, A. Cohen and Betzalel Kahn

Note: Because of the recent elections, we have rescheduled the second half of the article "Chareidi Music and Non-Music" for next week. United Torah Jewry's impressive results at the polls in last Tuesday's local elections held in cities and local councils around the country can be attributed to the thousands of dedicated activists and volunteers who made special efforts to carry out directives by gedolei Yisroel, led by Maran HaRav Eliashiv, shlita, to strengthen religion everywhere by working to promote UTJ, according to the party's national political leadership. UTJ's achievements are more apparent in places with large concentrations of chareidim, but formidable results were also apparent in development towns, where the party received wide support from a large portion of the traditional sector and from voters not typically among its constituents.

New Bnei Brak Mayor Frankental Receives Overwhelming Mandate

Rabbi Yissochor Frankental of UTJ was elected mayor of Bnei Brak after receiving 48,979 votes out of 52,573 voters (93 percent). After being accused of indifference, the city's residents streamed to the polls resolutely: of the 83,859 eligible voters 62 percent arrived at one of the city's 123 polling places to cast their votes, compared to 58.5 percent in the previous municipal elections, and about 43 percent in the country as a whole.

Fourteen of the 23 seats on the city council went to Agudas Yisroel-Degel HaTorah, five to Shas, two to Mafdal and two to Iggud Bnei Torah Sephardim (Kad). The election results showed 30,782 votes for UTJ, 9,740 for Shas, 4,769 for Iggud, 3,080 for Mafdal, 1,684 for Likud, 1,187 for Shinui, 862 for Labor- Am Echad and 194 for HaIchud HaLeumi. For the first time ever, no secular representatives will sit on the city council. Shinui did not even come close and even the Likud was nosed out.

The new city council members from Agudas Yisroel-Degel HaTorah are Rabbi Yissochor Frankental, mayor; Rabbi Yaakov Asher, deputy mayor; Rabbi Yissochor Dov Beigel; Rabbi Yisroel Moshe Friedman; Rabbi Meir Yehuda Marmorstein, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Cohen; Rabbi Yaakov Cohen; Rabbi Avrohom Rubinstein, deputy mayor; Rabbi Chaim Dovid Rosner; Rabbi Yaakov Virzhabinsky, Rabbi Shlomo Zacharia Kostlitz; Rabbi Shlomo Stern; Rabbi Meir Moscovitz and Rabbi Yehuda Haber.

The newly elected city council members from Shas are Pinchas Tzubari, deputy mayor; Eliyahu Dadon; Nissan Yigal Guate; Natan Betzalel and Avraham Partosh.

From Iggud Bnei Torah Sephardim are Rabbi Yosef Machbub and Rabbi Asher Prosper Almaliyach.

From Mafdal, Yaakov Solar and Dr. Moshe Gavra were selected.

Beit Shemesh

United Torah Jewry became the leading party in Beit Shemesh last week, garnering over 19 percent of the city's votes. Hundreds of party activists toiled on Election Day, helping UTJ win 291 votes more than in the Knesset elections just eight months ago.

Daniel Vaknin (Likud) was elected for a third term as mayor, which came as a disappointment to UTJ supporters hoping to see him defeated by independent candidate Natan Shitreet, who had UTJ and Shas backing. Vaknin won by a 7 percent margin with 9,055 votes over Shitreet's 7,734. Attorney Shalom Padida came in a distant third with 1,750 votes, trailed by David Gozlan with 848 votes.

The new city council will be comprised of three representatives each from UTJ, Shas and Likud, two representatives each from Mafdal, Dor Acher and Mishpacha Achat and one representative each from Beit Shemesh Achat and Darkei Noam. Even though UTJ received almost 50 percent more votes than Likud, they wound up with the same number of representatives.

United Torah Jewry received 3,784 votes, Shas 2,964 (a decrease of some 800 votes compared to the Knesset elections), Likud 2,651, Mishpacha Achat 2,469, Dor Acher 1,827, Mafdal 1,722, Beit Shemesh Achat 1,065 and Darkei Noam 927. Four other parties were left out of the city council after they failed to pass the cutoff with a minimum percentage of votes: Shitreet's Shemesh Chadasha, which received 760 votes, Yeish Atid with 593 votes, Chemed with 543 votes and Shinui, which hoped to receive two mandates but fell far short with just 450 votes.

UTJ not only became the most powerful list on the city council, but also gained an additional mandate compared to last time, thanks to concerted efforts by volunteers to bring as many potential supporters to the polls as possible. The voter turnout in the city's chareidi neighborhoods was as high as 85-90 percent compared to an city-wide turnout rate of 66 percent, which was still well above the national average.

UTJ's Rabbi Yitzchok Reich Elected Head of Rechasim City Council

United Torah Jewry supporters in Rechasim were delighted over the election of Rabbi Yitzchok Reich as head of the city council. Although since no other candidates were running his election was guaranteed, figures in Rechasim called the change revolutionary, saying the town would stride forward in all areas of life, particularly the absorption of new families seeking to live in a place with established Torah life and the services an orderly kehilloh has to offer.

After the official election results came in congratulations messages arrived from around the country--from the mayors of major cities, from local officials and from many of Rabbi Reich's acquaintances, wishing him well in his new post.

Rabbi Reich won wide support in every segment of the town's constituency, including backing by non-religious activists. During a visit to Rechasim, Degel HaTorah Chairman MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz told local supporters he was amazed by what he saw. When he inquired why virtually the whole town supported Rabbi Reich everybody noted his professionalism and affability. His supporters added that they believe he will be the one to effect change in the Torah community, the largest organized chareidi community in the North.

Upon receiving the final results at 1:00 a.m. a convoy of cars set out from the national headquarters to Rabbi Reich's home in the Bnei Beitecha neighborhood and brought him to a hall prepared in advance at the national headquarters. He thanked all of the campaign workers, particularly Election Staff Head Rabbi Shlomo Houminer, who worked on the campaign night and day for several weeks. Rabbi Houminer will himself serve as a council member. Second on the UTJ list is Degel HaTorah Chairman Rabbi Avrohom Mishkovsky. R' Yitzchok Sultan, a local Shas activist who remained at Rabbi Reich's side throughout the campaign, also received special thanks.

Rosh Kollel Meoros HaRav Moshe Yaakobi congratulated Rabbi Reich on his election to office, and HaRav Meir Padida of the Darkei Torah kehilloh wished him success in his endeavors for the general good of all residents. An unprecedented list uniting UTJ and Shas won six council seats with 1,866 votes.

Degel HaTorah's Sweeping Success in Netanya

Degel HaTorah's sweeping success in the local elections in Netanya last week brought an enthusiastic response in the city's bnei Torah sector and in chareidi population centers around the country. Local observers claim the election results demonstrate Netanya's bnei Torah chareidi community has been under represented for years.

The stormy local campaign leading up to Election Day was marked by plots against the local Degel HaTorah list, called Degel HaRevachah. Activists came from around the country to assist the local chareidi community fend off its opponents. Degel HaTorah heads in Jerusalem, led by Deputy Mayor Rabbi Uri Maklev, arrived in Netanya several days before the election and stayed on to help local party workers and activists with the campaign, bringing with them a wealth of organizing experience and the know-how to garner votes from various different sectors. Degel HaTorah MKs such as Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz also came to back Netanya's chareidi community.

The approximately 3,200 votes Degel HaTorah received earned the party two historic seats on the city council and demonstrated that the city's large bnei Torah community, which some people had been trying to keep hidden, can no longer be ignored. Netanya's chareidi community has thrived in recent years, developing an array of nursery schools and kindergartens, talmudei Torah, Beis Yaakov schools and high schools, yeshivas, kollelim and numerous botei medrash. The city also boasts an active teshuvoh movement and a major Lev L'Achim branch as well as chesed organizations in all areas of life.

Local chareidi figures say that despite the flourishing bnei Torah community, for years various people have been working to keep it under represented. Once all efforts at cooperation had been exhausted gedolei Yisroel told community members to run independently. The election results had a unifying effect on the city that promises to foster continued growth. Party representatives Rabbi Moshe Lachover and Rabbi Yaakov Levy thanked all of the campaign workers and activists, pledging to serve as shluchei derabonon for the good of all chareidi residents and the other sectors that supported them.

Various Communities

In Carmiel a UTJ representative was elected to the city council for the first time. The party received 1,314 votes-- more than four times the number of votes it was given in the Knesset elections last February. Shas and Mafdal won slightly more votes and in general the religious parties increased their power in the city. Mayor Adi Eldar, who won UTJ backing, hurried to announce that as far as he was concerned they would be the first ones in the coalition he plans to set up. In Carmiel, as in other parts of the country, Shinui will be unable to impose its will by leaving the chareidim out of the coalition.

In Hadera UTJ breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was eventually announced that despite the initial results that appeared otherwise, Yisrael Sadan, who Rabbi Gafni described as UTJ's "representative" in Hadera, was elected mayor for a second term. The combined UTJ-Mafdal list managed to secure two seats, which was considered a respectable showing in light of the circumstances: During the campaign UTJ branches were set on fire, houses were broken into, promotional material and lists of activists were stolen; on Election Day itself disinformation was spread that party workers say caused the loss of 300 votes--enough to gain a third mandate. Nevertheless, since the total number of council members was reduced from 21 to 19, UTJ did well by retaining its two seats. It got 11 percent of the vote and is the third largest party in Chadera.

In Ganei Tikva UTJ got itself on the map by taking two seats running together with Shas despite attempts by local figures to split the list. The 330 votes the list won were enough to get UTJ representative, Attorney Rabbi Yonah Moshkovitz, onto the city council. He thanked the party for its support, making special note of Rabbi Gafni and Rabbi Gutterman, who arrived several times during the campaign to offer encouragement. In Azor, too, a UTJ representative gained a seat on the city council, surprising everybody.

In Rechovot another attorney, Rabbi Aryeh Shtauber, will serve as UTJ's representative in a rotation with Rabbi Shlomo Stern. UTJ ran with Shas on a list called "Shasag," which retained its three seats. This was considered a solid achievement since the number of city council members was reduced and because the list ran without the support of additional factions that backed it in past elections. In general the religious parties increased their seats from 5 of 23 to 7 of 21 in Rechovot. Shinui, which did not support Mayor Shuki Forer, fell short of its expectations taking only two seats, just like Meretz. Forer has already declared he would prefer the chareidim over Shinui in his coalition.

In Raanana Darkei Noam, the list backed by UTJ, made a surprise showing with two seats. In Herzliya a UTJ representative won a spot on the city council for the first time ever, in a rotation with a Shas representative.

In Netivot UTJ and Shas joined forces with all of the other religious factions in the city for the first time. The united list won five seats on the city council with almost 32 percent of the vote. UTJ's Rabbi Yonah Pfeuffer is second on the list. In Zichron Yaakov the party won two seats. In Tzfat a combined UTJ-Shas list won three seats. In Yerucham a UTJ-Shas list called Moreshet Yerucham won two of nine mandates; during the last term the list held four out of 11 seats.

In Tel Aviv, as part of the Eli Aminov and the Neighborhoods list, UTJ doubled its power. In Tiberius, as well, UTJ managed to place a representative on the city council in a rotation with the Shas representative. In Gan Yavneh UTJ held one seat on the city council for 24 years-- until the last term--and this year the party's 360 votes were enough to regain the seat.

In Petach Tikva one UTJ representative will serve on the city council and in Be'er Sheva a united UTJ-Shas- Mafdal list won three seats. In Arad another UTJ-Shas- Mafdal list gained two seats. In Ashkelon UTJ managed to secure two seats for its representatives after a combined list with Shas won a total of three seats. In Ofakim two members of the local UTJ chareidi kehilloh will serve on the city council. In Kiryat Gat UTJ managed to put two representatives on the local list it supported.

In Natzerat Illit UTJ took one seat. In Afula Degel HaTorah posted an astounding performance, coming just a few dozen votes short of a second mandate; there a UTJ representative will serve in a rotation with a Shas representative. In Chatzor Haglilit two UTJ representative won spots on the city council.

In Ashdod UTJ won two seats and a local Sephardic list called Kol Halev also won two seats. In Dimona UTJ representative Rabbi Avner Mussai won 777 votes--12 short of what he needed to secure a seat on the city council. In the last elections he fell 11 votes short.

UTJ representatives also serve in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit, Telse-Stone, Elad and Emanuel, where elections were held previously.

Kadima and Tzoran Gain a Friend for Netivot Moshe

Far from the front lines of the election campaign a fierce battle was waged in the towns of Kadima and Tzoran, which are now united under a single council, and Chinuch Atzmai school Netivot Moshe was caught in the thick of the fighting once again. Yet this time, following the wide support the school has drawn, candidates fought over the religious vote, each promising to help the school more than the next.

Yossi Malka (Meretz), the acting chairman of the Tzoran council who won in the previous elections after waging a campaign against the school, tried to send forth a message he had only good intentions toward the traditional constituents. Meanwhile Malka won the support of resigning council head Ezra Levy, who has been working indefatigably to hinder the Torah-based school's development and oust it from the town.

Levy even confronted Rabbi Moshe Gafni in court over the school's status, but he lost the case and was ordered to post guards outside the two Netivot Moshe schools. Levy told Gafni that despite his resignation he would continue to do everything in his power to prevent the schools from operating in Kadima. But his comeuppance came from a different direction.

Independent candidate Yitzchok Golberry, a Kadima council member identified with the friends of Netivot Moshe who supports the school openly, vied for the council chairmanship after Rabbi Gafni himself worked to unite Kadima and Tzoran. Chareidi and traditional voters combined forces to assist him, and after the vote count showed him victorious cheers went up all around. When Rabbi Gafni called to congratulate him, Golberry said he would continue to promote the school and would even seek a permanent solution by allocating land and providing all necessary assistance.

Politica: Likud Takes a Beating

by Eliezer Rauchberger

The Likud Party will be licking its wounds from last week's local elections for a long time to come, but it can derive some consolation in the knowledge the beating it took could have been much worse. It was rather amusing to hear Ariel Sharon following election day declare that Likud remained the biggest and the leading party in local government, a claim in stark contrast to the facts. On the other hand it would be hard to call what took place a "crushing defeat."

The Likud arrived at last week's elections on the heels of a fabulous showing in last winter's Knesset elections. Thus anyone who anticipated a repeat performance would indeed view last week's results as a major defeat. But municipal elections are a whole different story for all of the parties. To win local elections requires a strong, established party with the infrastructure and resources at the local level to run a successful campaign and a candidate the local populace holds in high esteem. If either of these factors is lacking, the race is lost.

Powerful Likud mayors were reelected in places like Netanya, Raanana, Rechovot, Ashdod and Beit Shemesh. On the other hand Likud mayors lost their reelection bids in many other cities including Ramat Gan, Bat Yam, Rosh HaAyin, Eilat, Nahariya and Dimona. In places like Ashkelon, Kiryat Shemoneh and Sderot a second round of voting will be held and the Likud candidate will have to work hard to win.

Based on election forecasts the Likud came prepared to handle the possibility of a stinging defeat. They hired an outside communications consultant who, together with the Likud spokesman, drafted a list of responses and phrases that was distributed to party leaders, ministers and MKs. This prep sheet even included a list of questions reporters might ask along with desirable responses. The basic motto was that the Likud did not lose but maintained its power, a message needed to prevent anti-Likud sentiments from gaining momentum. In general the party prefers to see the cup as half full--or to be more precise, one-quarter full.

One Likud minister I met with the day after the elections saw the results as a green light from the public to continue with the present economic program. "If after all of the difficult decrees imposed on the public and the heavy recession the Likud is still out there and considered a prominent party despite losses in several places, there can be no doubt we are on the right path," he reasoned. "By the time the next elections arrive the economy will already be out of the mud, the public will be earning more and then our success will be guaranteed."

Likud heads can permit themselves to think such thoughts, but the public is unlikely to see things in the same light. If the economic and security situation does not improve the Likud will be hit hard in the next elections. However, if the national mood picks up and the Likud can point to achievements in economic, social and security spheres the party is sure to win in the coming elections regardless of last week's elections.

Politica: Shinui Falls Short

by Eliezer Rauchberger

Shinui suffered a worse setback than Likud, although party officials may be slow to admit it. They boast of securing 50 new seats on councils across the country, but this achievement remains a far cry from the party's goal of laying down roots in every town and city. For a party with fifteen mandates in the Knesset, 50 council members is small change. Shas, for example, with its 11 mandates, has more than twice as many council members; even Mafdal or Meretz with six mandates each have more to show for themselves.

Shinui's appetite was whetted following the elections in Jerusalem and Haifa, but they made a critical mistake by projecting the results in these two cities to local elections elsewhere. In Jerusalem they rode the wave of popular anti- religious sentiment and in a city with such a large chareidi population it comes as no surprise they managed to get two representatives on the city council. Neither can Haifa serve as a case study for the rest of the country. Mayor Yonah Yahav may have run on the Shinui list, but he has always been a Labor man through and through.

Shinui was bitterly disappointed in Tel Aviv (Avraham Poraz and Tommy Lapid's hometown), Rishon Letzion, Kfar Saba, Eilat, Ashkelon, Bnei Brak and Herzliya, among other places.

Following the Likud, Shinui appears to be the biggest loser in these elections. Is this a sign of the beginning of the end for the party? Some observers said that the vote makes it clear that Shinui's great success in the Knesset elections was a one-time protest vote that is not likely to be repeated.

Will the gloomy vote count serve as a hint to local Shinui candidates to start looking for a new home before the next elections come around? Only time will tell.


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