Avraham Shmuel Lewin, Jewish Press Israel Correspondent
Posted Oct 22 2008
‘I Will Be The Next Mayor Of Jerusalem’ , Avraham Shmuel Lewin, Jewish Press Israel Correspondent
The Jewish Press Speaks With MK Meir Porush
Seven days after Americans go to the polls to elect a new president on Nov. 4, Jerusalemites will be voting for a new mayor. At first the only candidate representing the Orthodox camp was UTJ MK Meir Porush, but then former Shas leader Aryeh Deri announced he was throwing his hat into the ring too. It turned out, however, that a moral turpitude clause in the 1999 verdict convicting him of corruption charges prevents him from running.
The Jewish Press met recently with MK Porush and asked him about the upcoming mayoral elections and his goals for Jerusalem as mayor.
The Jewish Press: How have Jerusalem’s secular Jews reacted to your candidacy?
Porush: I know there are a lot of people who have a hard time accepting me. I ask them, however, to judge me not by the length of my beard but rather by my experience and the operational ability I bring with me.
Why are you running for mayor?
Jerusalem suffers from a plague of young people and young couples deserting the city and going to live elsewhere. The major reason for that is the high cost of renting or buying a house or an apartment as well as a lack of jobs.
We must come up with new incentives that would encourage people to stay in Jerusalem. We have to ensure that there are new building projects and we must unfreeze property and lots in order to build on them. We have to unfreeze the law I passed in the Knesset to strengthen Jerusalem by giving every new couple a grant of NIS110,000. When I talk of renewing Jerusalem I mean injecting new blood in the municipality’s veins to get things moving.
Jerusalem is in bad shape. In 1967, when Jerusalem was reunited, 72 percent of the city’s residents were Jews and 28 percent Muslims and Christians. But today it is 66 percent Jewish. If in the coming years we do not bring in tens of thousands of young Jewish couples, Jerusalem will be in real danger [of no longer being a Jewish city].
Even though the current mayor of Jerusalem (who is not seeking reelection) is haredi, there are those who say it is not a job for a haredi Jew because a mayor has to give permits to churches and mosques and participate in various events that are not appropriate for haredim. How do you respond?
You have to see what Jewish law says about this. If something is forbidden halachically, then it is forbidden for any Jew regardless of affiliation or level of observance. And if something is permitted, then it doesn’t make a difference whether the mayor has a big beard or a small one. What did Jews do in Europe years back in a village where a religious Jew was responsible for municipal affairs? There are many rabbonim and gedolei Torah who are telling me to run.
How would you deal with the gay pride parades in Jerusalem?
Look, there is no question that the High Court of Justice allows them to march. The question is, how I will greet them. I am against the very idea of such a march, but the job of a mayor is not only to act against it during the month of the march but rather to talk about it all year. A mayor must constantly speak about the uniqueness of Jerusalem – that it is a special city and that anyone who lives here must feel it is a privilege to do so.
Why is Jerusalem a special city? Why are people in America, Russia or Europe so concerned about what goes on in Jerusalem? Everyone wants to know if those who govern Jerusalem are worthy of governing such a holy city.
When I was a child of 12 I was unable to go to the Western Wall because the Arabs controlled it then. Today, a 12-year-old Arab child has no problems going to the Temple Mount. This shows that Jews are more worthy to control the Temple Mount than the Arabs are.
Do you know when the world will also feel that Israel is worthy of controlling Jerusalem? When we Jews will be able to get along among ourselves. If we are extreme and unwilling to compromise, Jerusalem will not be able to remain united. Anyone who lives in Jerusalem has to compromise.
By compromise, do you mean secular Jews must recognize the religious status quo that has been in place for so long?
It is a special privilege to live in Jerusalem. It is difficult to be drafted into the army, but the draft nevertheless is compulsory so that the state can continue to exist. Likewise, it may also be difficult for a secular Jew to live in Jerusalem but he has to compromise so that Jerusalem will remain united. If the status quo will not be maintained, we will lose Jerusalem.
Do you seriously expect to be elected?
With the help of God, all is going great. Meir Porush will become mayor of Jerusalem on November 11.