Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whose Jerusalem - Ultra Orthodox or secular?

Looks like many secular/traditional/non-ultra-orthodox people breathed a sigh of relief this morning and thanked God (even the secular probably did) that Porush did not win the Jerusalem municipal elections, and welcomed Nir Barkat as mayor.

And I thought of how Jerusalem is supposed to be a City of Gold not an ugly dirty, dingy, city turned upside down by litter and poor city planning. I prayed to God before I went to bed to please, for His sake, let the best guy win (i.e. Barkat) who will hopefully turn this city back into His Golden, gorgeous city.

I can't vote in the elections because I live in the suburbs, but these elections affect me nontheless, as I spend most of my waking hours here, working, playing and eating. I really don't know much about Porush, except that he looks like he doesn't know the meaning of the word "fun."

I cruised by the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods on the bus yesterday afternoon, looking at the filthy neighborhoods, thinking perhaps I would think differently about the typical secular person's fear about ultra-orthodox encroachment, if they would only take a bit of pride in their surroundings, perhaps even consider recycling or something along environmental lines, that doesn't conflict with the Torah. But the ban of having a photo of a woman on a bus ad, we're not even talking scantily-clad women, but even plain looking women, is scary, as is the lack of cultural funding and the tearing down of historical landmarks to make way for luxury housing. I pictured much of Jerusalem looking like B'nai Brak near Tel Aviv, a very ugly city in my mind, with no tourists coming in except to see the sights in the Old City and perhaps Ein Karem in West Jerusalem, no internationals wanting to invest in business here and perhaps Porush would even want the cinemateque closed on the Sabbath. Not to mention the exodus of the bright, young and secular to greener pastures like Tel Aviv and the coast. Those were the many thoughts/fears I had travelling down Strauss Street yesterday afternoon, looking sadly out the window.

I took off work yesterday to work for someone I know would lose in yesterday's elections. I was put to work by Arkadi Gaydamak's party as a mashkif, which is an "observer" in the polling stations. My daughter, who had been happily working for his party for the past couple of weeks, day and night, for a very nice income, gave me this opportunity for the day. I was supposed to be at the Hillel Street experimental school at 7:00 am until 3:00 pm jotting down the numbers listed on the voters' cards. Four of us got there at 7:00 but we didn't have the cards we needed in order for us to be considered "official". We called Gaydamak's office several times to be told "someone will be coming to give them to you." After 1/2 hour, we wandered over to the nearest coffee shop and got to know each other a bit. Not a Russian among us. One was doing her doctorate in Middle Eastern Studies, and another was a warm sephardic woman who insisted the Rebbe of Lubavitch was still alive and well and answering her letters.

We finally got to 'work' at around 9:00 am in separate rooms. There were three other women in the room with me. One was the secretary, who took voters' cards and ID numbers, checked their voting numbers on their voting ticket. I simply highlighted these voting numbers on a numbered sheet, which looked like some sort of advanced bingo sheet and joked if I win anything if the sheet fills up, or I fill in a line or two. There were 976 voters registered to vote in our room and we expected to be busy. But all together only SEVEN people showed up by 3:00 pm. Why? Most of the people on our list were Arabs and stragglers, like students. In fact the people who did show up were foreign-born students who had just made aliyah. The Arabs stupidly boycotted the elections - again. I say "stupidly" because so little of the municipal budget goes to East Jerusalem (I heard about 10%), and they desperately need better infrastructure and more classrooms/schools built. But without voting, I don't think they'll win any prizes or get the things that they need most, and that's a shame. The politicians will continue to ignore this part of the populace as a result.

So what does a person do for hours on end when no one comes to vote? Having never done this before, I thought I'd be busy and would have no time for Sudoku and reading, etc. Our room was an English-language classroom, and I was considering reading all the workbooks, that's how bored I was. I did find one book by Oscar Wilde, which I read in about 1/2 hour. Short stories for young children - The Selfish Giant, The Happy Prince, The Fisherman's Soul, Star Child, etc, which was the highlight of my day.

Meals were given out by everyone's respective parties. The woman next to me was working for Porush. She got two large fluffy rolls, a can of Star Kist tuna salad, vanilla pudding and chocolate milk. I got a lousy omelet sandwich. Others had a hot meat meal.

And I wondered out loud to the people in the room whether, had I been working for Dan Birran (Green Leaf candidate), I would have gotten an organic vegetable salad with nuts and seeds and sprouts - with a few hemp seeds thrown in.


Anonymous said...

now were you paid by the party or by the government, ie, those taxes that seem to disappear - anyway, glad they gave you a nice amount of salary.


(sorry I didn't know ahead of time, would have come by and given you some sushi :>)

jerusalemgypsy said...

I would have loved some sushi. This was paid for by Arkadi's party. Seems most of the parties paid for their people to be at the polls. Could have been out of his own pocket, because I doubt my taxes paid for this. Who knows though.