"In another decade, no secular person will be mayor of any city, except perhaps some miserable village," declared MK Meir Porush, the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, on Saturday.
Porush's remark was not intended for general consumption; it was made in Yiddish to an all-Haredi audience at Jerusalem's Belzer yeshiva. But it became public knowledge when it was broadcast live, without his knowledge, by the cellular news service Hakol Haharedi.
In his speech, Porush noted that the religious community's size, and therefore its influence, has been growing, due primarily to its high birthrate. Jerusalem, he pointed out, elected its first Haredi mayor five years ago, and Beit Shemesh may well do the same in next week's municipal election, as the Shas Party's candidate currently leads in the polls.
Asked for a response, Porush's campaign staff said that when he spoke about the religious community's high birthrate, he was including religious Zionists as well as the ultra-Orthodox. "Within the next 10 to 15 years, we will both be on the playing field," explained one - and therefore, Porush believes the Haredim should make a deal with the religious Zionists under which "one time you'll support us, and another time we'll support you."
His media adviser acknowledged that Porush has long worked to establish all-Haredi cities, but insisted that the candidate wants to become mayor of Jerusalem "for the sake of a better future for all its inhabitants - secular, religious, traditional, ultra-Orthodox - and all its nationalities."
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