Local Elections Jerusalem / Not Such a Close Shave

Porush's rock. In the middle of Begin Road, the Jerusalem version of the Ayalon Highway, there is a large rock that should be dubbed "Porush's rock." The rock blocks the third lane of the highway northbound. The candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, MK Meir Porush, is proud of this monument that conceals a burial cave whose destruction he prevented. But he is not willing to take responsibility for removing a lane from the highway. He says the rock was placed there by residents of the adjacent Beit Hakerem neighborhood, who fought against the highway.

More severe punishment. Meir Porush has two Web sites. The home page of the newer one has pictures of secular people who support Porush. The older site opens with a list of the activities in which Porush has been engaged in the Knesset; among them, more severe punishment for missionaries, a draft bill to prohibit work on Shabbat in kibbutz stores and a draft bill to amend the Chametz Law.

Who is voting for Gaydamak? The task of secular candidate Nir Barkat is not an easy one. The gap between Barkat and incumbent Mayor Uri Lupolianski in the 2003 election was 15,500 votes - 9 percent. Since then the number of potential voters has increased by 12,000, and we can reasonably assume that half of them are ultra-Orthodox. In other words, the gap has increased by around 2,000, at least. Keep in mind, though, that four other secular candidates took almost 10,000 votes from Barkat in the previous election. This time he has to deal with only two: Arcadi Gaydamak and Green Leaf Party candidate Dan Biron. Gaydamak's mysterious electorate is only one of the groups on which the fascinating Jerusalem election depends.

The balance of secular voters. A Jerusalem legend has it that the secular public is apathetic and doesn't come to the polls. In effect, it is more likely that the traditional public doesn't vote in force and the secular public employs most of its electoral power in every election. In any case, the election of Barkat largely depends on his ability to bring more secular (or traditional) voters to the polls than he did in 2003.

From right to right. Whereas the voting pattern of almost the entire secular public and all the Haredim is known in advance, the far-right religious Zionist public has become the deciding factor. The battle over the religious vote has gotten Barkat into trouble with the left, which was shocked to hear that this candidate to lead the right-wing city supports the construction of a Jewish neighborhood in Anata in East Jerusalem. What else could he do? Porush is one of the most right-wing MKs. He promised in the campaign to build 10,000 apartments for Jews in the Atarot industrial zone. In any case, we should recall that the mayor won't decide whether to divide Jerusalem. That's the government's job.

There is a limit to factionalism. Barkat is advised not to count too much on the split in the ultra-Orthodox public. The Haredi voter has only one candidate. The Gur Hasidim may be angry at Porush, but they have even less desire for a secular mayor.

The slate of the bearded men. The Porush campaign staff has an original answer to the question of why his election posters, instead of featuring pictures of Porush, feature only a caricature of a cute ultra-Orthodox man with a cute beard. They say that if they had put his picture on a bus, his long beard would have become entangled in the wheels. The beard has become a symbol of the difference between Porush and the closely shaved Barkat. That is the real story of the Jerusalem elections. As much as they may discuss the candidates' views and abilities, this is really a battle between the slate of bearded men and the party of the smooth shaven.