The Big Felafel

Rowdy English election debate in Jerusalem

National elections are coming up on February 10, 2009 so over 1,000 undecided Jerusalem English speakers came to the Great Synagogue Saturday night to hear what the major parties had to say for themselves.

I felt a little confused when I arrived, not sure if I had arrived at the national mah-jong tournament or a national debate, being that the average age of the crowd was somewhere around 82. Perfect constituents for the Pensioners party, too bad the party missed out on the opportunity.

But don’t be deceived, there was enough spunk in the audience to rowdy things up with a round of Jerry Springer-like boos and applause. Unfortunately, I would’ve liked to see more makeovers and girlfights. Maybe at the next English debate.

David Horovitz from the Jerusalem Post started off the evening by reminding us what happened at the previous Mayoral Debate in Jerusalem, and poking fun at the candidates: Porush for not letting his translator translate, Barkat for arriving late, Birron for being a politician for less than a month, and Gaydamak for being… well… Gaydamak.

David then let the representatives introduce themselves, followed by a few questions from the audience. I wonder why they didn’t ask my TV tax question (will you get rid of it?) Molly, I tried..

Here’s my take on each party’s performance. All this talk about parties makes me think we really should’ve gotten goody bags for attending. David Horovitz, if you’re listening…

Danny Ayalon – Israel Beitenu
Excellent speaker (former ambassador to the US). Very smooth and convincing about how we need to restore national pride and change the political system. He only got angry when Uri Bank from the National Religious party claimed that Yisrael Beitenu would give up parts of Jerusalem. Restoring national pride, you say… what do you say about the accusations against head of the party Leiberman’s daughter.

Dr. Bennie Begin, son of the Menachem Begin – Likud
He basically called out the current, Kadima-led government on all the things they are doing wrong.  But I ask you this, Bennie, Whatcha gonna do? Why couldn’t you provide us with some solutions of your own. Oh, and notice anything familiar about the Likud website? Maybe this screenshot comparison to Obama’s site will help.

netanyahu obama

Uri Bank – Eichud Leumi – National Union
American-born and proud of it! I think he must’ve mentioned his American-ness at least 302 times and repeated the line “Vote for us and I will be your congressman” a bunch of times. I know we’re Americans, but I think we’ve finally caught on that we don’t call our Members of Knesset Congressmen. Perhaps he was playing the American card a little too much. He even said “When you vote eichud leumi, the best thing you get – is me” Very modest. Bank also affirmed that the next Prime Minister will be Netanyahu. Great, thanks for spoiling the anticipation! He then proceeded to bash Likud.

Dr. Tzvia Greenfield  – Meretz
Tzvia is an ultra-Orthodox woman on the Meretz list, a liberal party focused on peace and social justice. She started out by bashing all the people who spoke before her, claiming they just go on and on about war and death. Here’s the confusing thing – Tzvia presents herself as Hareidi, but wasn’t Meretz’s platform in Jerusalem “Putting an end to the haredization of the city”.

Daniel HershkovitzHabayit Hayehudi
As to be expected, he also did a little bashing – of Uri Bank and his inconsistencies. His claim is that we should unite the land, the torah, and the people of Israel.  Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) is a new right wing party, a joint party of the National Religious Party (Mafdal) and National Unity movements. A little English on your website would be helpful.

Rabbi Michael Melchior – Green Meimad
The least bashy yet, Melchior was a confident and powerful speaker who really cut through the crap and made me start paying attention. He said that no matter who the Prime Minister is from the 3 major parties – Labor, Kadima or Likud, they all believe that Israel should remain a Jewish and Democratic country, so they will pretty much handle Israel’s security in a similar way, and that 80% of Israelis believe there will be a 2 state solution. The real question is, what are the other parties proposing to do about education, social issues and the environment.


One of their slogan reads “all the other parties are fighting each other but we’re fighting for you”. It’s so true. All the other parties were so busy bashing each other that they couldn’t even get their visions across and they missed out, because I, for one, was in search of an leader who can see that Israel needs to be more than secure, it needs to be a place where people want to live and bring up their children. And for me, the only person who got that message across effectively was Melchior. And hey, if that baby is gonna vote for them, maybe I will too.

Avraham MichaliShas
I have to be honest, by this point my ADD was fighting to take over, and Avraham’s slow and unenthusiastic English didn’t help much. So, I took it upon myself to read up on the Shas website after the debate. Unfortunately, there was very little English. What I did notice was their logo “Yes we can!”. Hmm.. reminds me of something very familiar. Also, you may want to get rid of the Drupal favicon. Sorry for being such a geek on that one.


Nachman Shai – Kadima
Nachman aroused the biggest number of boos from the crowd when he expressed his support for the disengagement from Gaza, and his willingness to go to the 1967 borders or whatever it takes to preserve the Jewish democratic state. Followed by more boos and his response to the audience, “enough already”.

Dr. Einat Wilf – Labor
Einat spoke confidently about her party’s focus on education, welfare and health issues. Also, she is all for higher levels  of political responsibility and that the Labor party may sound boring but it is most definitely responsible. Later on, I checked out the Labor website  – I love that a mini-Barak waltzes across his website and starts talking to you. It looks like he got trapped in the Willy Wonka TV shrinking machine and I could peel him right off the site and put him on my desk.


Are you still reading? 22 points for you.

And if you’re still undecided about which of the 34 parties to vote for,  you can use the Election Voting Compass, a guide that asks your stance on several questions and then advises you on who to vote for. Thankfully, they offer it in the 3 most common languages spoken in Israel – English, Hebrew, and  Dutch.

comp compass


Indecision 2008 Jerusalem: Meet the Candidates

Shira’s coverage of Indecision 2008 Jerusalem continues…

Lets take a look at the candidates, but not just their billboards, which would have you believe that Porush is cute and cuddly, Barkat is a strong force, and Gaydamak “can’t speak Hebrew” (according to the vandalized slogan). Alright, so the last billboard isn’t so wrong..

Before you go to the polls, learn about each candidate’s past, see what they’ve done (or haven’t done) for Jerusalem lately, decide who best represents your values. and, if you still can’t make up your mind, find them on Facebook and see if you would friend them.

Did you know that each resident actually gets two votes in a local election?

1. a vote for mayor

2. a vote for the municipality council (by party)

While the two highest elected municipality positions, mayor and deputy mayor, are paid positions, the other 29 seats on the council are volunteer positions. The mayor’s salary comes from your taxes, has his/her hand most tightly around the budget and has the best chance of passing his/her policy decisions. But the council members are either a part of the mayor’s coalition, thus helping the mayor pass policy and allocate money, or they are a part of the opposition, with a unique opportunity of exposing the improprieties of the coalition to the public and leading a strong opposing stance to the ruling force. So both votes are extremely important.

Vote#1: Mayor of Jerusalem

Nir Barkat (Jerusalem Will Succeed)
Nir Barkat is the obvious choice for a normal mayor with a head for business and success. I admit that if cookie monster were running against Barkat, I’d vote cookie monster but I think he is the lesser of all evils and a vote for Barkat is going to support the only hope for getting Jerusalem out of its 10 year Olmert-Lupo rut. I want to make clear that Nir Barkat has proven through his actions to be an unreliable, a flip-flopper on the issues, and has been sleeping with the religious and Haredi right for 5 years and throughout his campaign. But if you’re into that kind of thing, then maybe he’s your man. So look into him, meet him, ask questions and decide for yourself.

Dan Birron (Aleh Yarok- Green Leaf)
I really do want to believe that a stoner can be better for Jerusalem than any of the other politicians, but I am afraid of how much of a toll the munchies might have on our city budget. Seriously, if I wasn’t overly concerned about splitting the secular vote, I might consider this guy. He is much more serious about separating religion and city politics, equality and pluralism than Barkat but his campaign is much less known. They want a clean city, a multi-cultural city and freedom. Their whole website is videos of Dan Birron talking out his points. It’s actually pretty cool. Check out his english video .

Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism)
Despite the cute cartoon imagry, Porush is actually a really seriously scary Haredi candidate who will do more of the same, if not worse, for Jerusalem than Lupoliansky. If you go to their website, you can see his real picture- he isn’t actually a fluffy cartoon cross between santa, a rabbi and Dumbledore. He’s old and he looks about as in touch with your average Jerusalem citizen living in 2008 as Moshe Rabeinu himself might be.

Arkadi Gaydamak (Social Justice) with Deputy Yigal Amedi
Please, please, please, if you have a shred of sense in your head, do not vote for Gaydamak. He is a wanted man, he is as corrupt a they come, he owns the local violent and racist soccer team and his Hebrew is worse than yours. I believe that Gaydamak poses more of a threat to Jerusalem than Iran.

Further reading: A brief JPost article on all 4 candidates

Vote #2 Municipality Council

(listed in order from love to hate)

HitorerutYerushalmim: This list combines my two favorite movements of the past few years (and you know how much I love a good social-political movement!)
(Wake Up) Jerusalem is a movement started by young Jerusalem activists who want to bring a new energy and a sense of responsible leadership to the city council. Yerushalmim is comprised of social change organizational leaders who want to get inside the political system to make the important changes from within. Headed by Rahel Azaria, director of social change organizations and a young, religious mother, and Ofer Berkovich, a young, charismatic community activist, their target audiences include: religious and secular, young families, soldiers, high school students, university students and activists of all ages who want to see a pluralist Jerusalem.

These are the people that I want to see on the coalition or opposition, fighting for fair allocation of the city budget and social justice in Jerusalem. I admit that I wish they would take a firm, open stance supporting Jerusalem Pride, an issue that in my opinion encompasses the fight for social justice and civil rights in Jerusalem. But aside from that they have my vote to represent me and my voice in the city.

Meretz Despite their scary and slightly offensive posters earlier in their campaign, Meretz has been the people’s strongest voice over the past 5 years while Jerusalem was flushed down the crapper by Lupoliansky and his boys. Defending cultural institutions and protesting awful traffic and building plans proposed and activated by the Haredi coalition, and being the only vocal support for Jerusalem Pride, Meretz always has mad respect from me.

The New Black Panthers Headed by Ayala Marziano-Sabag, they want to get onto the city council to evenly distribute the city budget to help weaker and weakened neighborhoods. Check out their history in Hebrew on Wikipedia.

Or – Hayerukim (Green Party)– A new combination headed by Gregory Tamar from the Or Party and 2 Green Party activists: Dalia Zomer and Gidon Shathel. Or’s campaign takes a hard stance against Haredi corruption of Jerusalem and for democracy. I couldn’t find Or’s website, which is not a good sign for them…

Lma’an Yerushalem– For Jerusalem, headed by Meir Turgeman, this party is a big mystery to me. I have seen some posters and heard of a few people voting for him but I couldn’t find a website or more information.

Likud– Using the face of Bibi Netanyahu on their ads (please note, the MK is not running on the list from what I can tell), Likud tries to make a play for Jerusalem City Council. At the top of their list, Elisha Peleg, lawyer and city councilman in the 90s and Dr. Vladimir Shaklar, local leader in city sports commission and Beitar Jerusalem.

MAFDAL and Ichud Haleumi– the popular duo is back! At the head of the list, David Haderi, previous city councilman and Director of Emunah. Interestingly, their 3rd seat goes to a woman, Edna Friedman- a newcomer to the list, but MAFDAL Jerusalem chairwoman and Jerusalem Emuna Boardmember.

Shas– You know the drill- it hasn’t changed. Haredi-Sepharadi. They support Porush as mayor.

Please note that in addition to these lists are the parties listed in #1, who aside from running Mayoral candidates are running for council seats as well.

Happy Voting! Feel free to send comments with questions– especially if you want to get involved and we’ll see what we can do!

Indecision 2008 – Jerusalem Style

Guest post by Shira


Are you eligible to vote? Where do you go to vote? Who is the best mayoral candidate choice for you?  When will Porush’s character finally be debuting on South Park? Stay tuned to The Big Felafel for Shira’s exclusive Jerusalem municipal election coverage.

With the November 11, 2008 Jerusalem Municipality elections fast approaching, it’ s time for you to get schooled in local political election jargon and regulations. So I will hold your hand, answer your questions and yes, tell you who to vote for on 11.11.

If we have learned anything from the last 2 American oh-shit-Florida-what-the-hell-happened elections, it’s that the price for mistakes in the voting booth is very, very high. This year is a critical vote in Jerusalem, since whoever gets elected will allocate the budget, construct unnecessary trains, close secular schools and build bridges leading nowhere, thus affecting your daily life.

In the last election, 180,000 Jerusalemites voted, which means that around 300,000 Jerusalem residents didn’t come out and vote.  The split between the winning Mayoral candidate and the runner up was only 15,000 votes! We thank you, 300,000 lazy, apathetic, irresponsible Jerusalemites for all of the lovely congested, construction filled streets of our city center, for the 2 million shekel bridge opening ceremony, and for the expensive french lighting system on last year’s municipality sukkah!

There is no denying that Jerusalem has its challenges but this election, with its multiple candidates and multiple parties, does not have to be one of them– in fact, it could be our way to a cleaner, younger, pluralistic future for Jerusalem. So lets see how we can break it down…

Today: Check that you are a Jerusalem resident. All citizens, 17 years and older can vote, but to vote in the Jerusalem municipal election you must be registered as a resident of the city on your teudat zehut (Israeli ID card). So make sure that your address is a Jerusalem address on your tz. If not, have it changed at misrad hapnim. I believe you have until 21 days before the election to change your address on your teudat zehut.

Soon, the election booklets will be sent to the address on your teudat zehut and that address determines where you go to place your vote. If you don’t get your election booklet in your mailbox(as listed on your tz), or have other questions about where you go to cast your vote, you can call the misrad hapnim hotline: 1800-300-059.

You can watch an awful Hebrew video about this process with English subtitles here. it is not informative at all, but it is mildly humorous.

Stay tuned for my next post about the candidates, parties and lists so you’ll know what your options are when you’re all alone in that voting booth. If you have questions, post them and I’ll do my best to find the answer in time for us to vote to safeguard the future of a diverse, productive and prosperous Jerusalem!

Boo to Elections. Yay to Reform.

"I will grab the boob by the nipple"

"I will grab the boob by its nipple"

I guess you want me to say “yay”. Yay that Tzpi Livni is in which means Ehud Olmert is out. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that Olmert-poop-face is out, but let’s face it, Livni ain’t that much better. Am I complaining, probably, but is there truth to what I say, probably.

Livni is not really a step up from Olmert. She is still in the Kadima party (not a fan) and she’s still apart of that dirty three-way between Conda-poo-poo and Abu boo boo. Now, you’re thinking, so fine tell us who is better, and to that I say: no one. Everyone who is hot on the political scene is a liar-liar-pants-on-fire type of politician. What I would like to see is someone new, someone with a clean slate. This person exists except they are not in our face lying about what they can do or promising the unthinkable. I think the country is too apathetic to seek this person out, so instead we are stuck with the same old crowd.

I think the whole system is lame. This election just proves that there is a lack of checks and balances in Israel. Livni was voted in by her buddies and will form a new coalition making deals with the other parties. But where do we factor in? Where are the deals with the people? Why should Livni be my Prime Minister, when I don’t even get to vote for her? The system denies me my voice. If she is now the Kadima party leader, then we should have new elections and let the best man or woman win. Do you feel me?

I know Israelis loves their paper in an envelop style voting but I really want to stir things up and change the whole system. I propose a dance-off between the candidates. Let’s see who has the best moves on the dance floor when it comes to hip-hop, ballet, and traditional Israeli folk dance. Can you imagine the horror? And how about a hummus eating contest? If you are a true Israeli, then prove it with your hummus eating skills. Wipe down your plate and do it right! Finally, to show you are one of us I would like to see the candidates go through the most grueling process of them all- stand in a line at the bank, stand in a line at the bus station, stand in a line at the post office and lets see who crumbles under the pressure first. Because obviously the voting system is a joke, so why not make it something worth watching?