Beit Shemesh: Revolution of Inclusiveness or of Exclusion to Most?


With 30 hours to go to national municipal elections in Israel, Beit Shemesh held a Mayoralty debate on Sunday night in the Simcha Hall of Beit Knesset Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham between the two main candidates, Shalom Lerner of B’Yachad and the Shas/Gimmel candidate Moshe Abutbul. The debate was extremely well organized despite having been chiselled together at the last minute.

The debate came on the heels of a controversial 14 page glossy promo piece by Abutbul’s campaign which was distributed by their campaign activists (ostensibly frum) during mid-afternoon on Friday afternoon, Erev Shabbos while most other observant Jews were cleaning, cooking and preparing for Shabbos.

Abutbul’s promo piece begins, right from page one in dismissal of his main opponent Shalom Lerner as “a very personable person and truly nice person” and continues that “Alas niceness, as important as it is… is far from enough.”

The promo piece notes that;

“We need a Mayor with a proven track record… who knows the municipal machine inside-out better than anyone else… with 20 years of experience.”

But nowhere in any of the 14 pages of this glossy piece entitled; “Why weren’t RB”S Residents Told About This?” does it spell out even one constructive effort which Abutbul undertook during his “20 years of experience.”

Whereas Abutbul’s public record seems to be as closely held to vest as is Barack Hussein Obama’s, Shalom Lerner’s nearly 20 years of impressive, specific civic and public service credentials are out there, of public record for all to see and review in both English and in Iv’rit. One of the “Anonymous” comments on Rafi’s “Life in Israel” blog relates to this author’s deep concerns about Moshe Abutbul to a tee;

“Anonymous” noted that the promo mentioned several times about all of the positions that Abutbul held in city hall over the past 15 years. Many of those postions were ones of power and influence yet…he didn’t mention even one instance where he made a difference. And Abutbul’s assertions cited in the brochure beg numerous questions; one which this author will express here;

Having stated in the promo piece that he “pledged that the city, under my leadership, will strive for complete equality among ALL sectors… the Irya will not become a ‘Shteibel’ … I will aways strive for consensus rather than division,” how does the above statement jive with numerous Abutbul public statements, including videos such as this YouTube video (where Moshe Abutbul is interviewed regarding possible opening of a Bituach Leumi office in RBS) which deliver a loud and clear message that if elected Mayor, he will work to make Beit Shemesh exclusive for Chareidim?

But back to the debate.

The event, perhaps the first of its kind in Israel was well organized and both candidates kept to the plan and rules. Neither candidate had any response to any question cut-off because they went over-time or didn’t follow the rules. No homeruns were hit by either candidate and Shalom Lerner more than held his own with Moshe Abutbul, generally acknowledged as being a polished orator, albeit only in Iv’rit. Shalom, like the proverbial modern-day baseball pitcher, kept his campaign in the game in a debate generally acknowledged as having ended in a draw. If Abutbul hoped to eat into Lerner voters, it seems very much to this author that he didn’t.

But one thing to come out of this debate is, that there is a distinction to be made between dreams and vision — bringing into fruition dreams and visions which are do-able, and turning dreams and visions into impractical, unachievable, unkeepable campaign promises as with Abutbul’s hospital. There lies the difference in candidates.

You will read in another post how Shalom Lerner was able to mobilize the Ir’ya to facilitate Lema’an Achai’s response and assistance to over 1,000 people from the North who came to Beit Shemesh to escape the Hezbollah rocket onslaught of the Lebanon conflict of the summer of 2006.

In the case of the hospital, it takes funds that the Ir’ya and citizens just don’t have. And with the world financial markets in deep crisis (Does Moshe Abutbul have any recognition of the seriousness of the world financial crisis?), Tzedaka from Chutz L’Aretz seems at a premium. Therefore, to make such a promise and bring about its mandate is an extremely risky and irresponsible proposition. MB

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