Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Divide within: Seculars, Jerusalem isn't yours
Mordechai Lavi says secular Jerusalemites to pay heavy price for Barkat's election win
I'm a Jerusalemite, I'm ultra-Orthodox, and I'm very sad. I'm not sad because secular candidate Nir Barkat defeated Orthodox candidate Meir Porush. I'm sad because an internal ultra-Orthodox struggle prompted many community members to simply fight themselves, vote against Porush, and bring about his loss. I knew this defeat would come. I knew it the moment I read about the recording of Porush in an ultra-Orthodox event, saying that in 10-15 years there will be no more secular candidates. The fact that an Orthodox person was willing to share this sensitive information with secular media outlets said it all.
Porush's rivals realized they are holding explosive material and were willing to do anything to bring him down, shatter his spirit, and minimize his chances. At that moment, I got it. When someone inside the community is willing to do something like that and undermine the interests of the entire Orthodox sector in the gravest, crudest, and most manipulative manner, the conclusion is clear: The battle had been decided.
Nir Barkat did not win. Nir Barkat lost. He didn't quite sweep the masses who he promised would come out and vote against the Orthodox. He received, not because of anything he did, thousands of votes from ultra-Orthodox who merely wanted to hurt the Orthodox candidate. This was a protest vote, and I say it unequivocally: If it wasn't for the internal strife, Barkat would keep on dreaming.
Orthodox to get more
Secular Jerusalemites, don't be confused (and don't take what I'm about to say too hard.) Jerusalem isn't yours. It really isn't. Jerusalem is more ultra-Orthodox than ever, and this trend will only grow stronger. The victory is a direct result of the internal Orthodox struggle. It is indeed a miracle that we ultra-Orthodox are such great fools.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, secular voters who wanted a change. You will get change, but the opposite of what you hoped for. Jerusalem will become more Orthodox, more devout, and worse for secular residents under a secular mayor. Nir Barkat will be a mayor at the mercy of an Orthodox coalition. The implication is that the ultra-Orthodox will receive much more from him than in their rosiest dreams under an Orthodox mayor.
A secular mayor will not face the limitations faced by an Orthodox mayor – close scrutiny and legal advisors that look into every move. In the name of unity, fraternity, and clinging to power, a secular mayor will give the Orthodox everything they want. After all, you know that without the Orthodox he cannot govern.
An Orthodox mayor would not dare close shops on Shabbat, because he's Orthodox. A secular mayor won't dare open stores on Shabbat, because it will prompt a mess. He won't have the privilege of enjoying the quiet enjoyed by former Mayor Lupolianski. If Barkat hurts the Orthodox community even a tiny bit, it won't only be the zealots of Meah Shearim who will come out and set the streets on fire.
The ultra-Orthodox will only gain from Nir Barkat's victory, because a secular mayor is good for the Orthodox and bad for the seculars. The seculars will lose big time. If they would have realized how badly they would lose, they would likely come out en masse Tuesday and flood the polling stations with Meir Porush ballots.
Right now it's a little too late, but don't you worry, secular Jerusalemites; in five years you'll have the opportunity to rectify your mistake.
Jerusalem resident Mordechai Lavi is an ultra-Orthodox media personality and the leading news broadcaster of Kol Chai Radio