Ofakim Residents Lash Out Against Absentee Mayor

Three months ago the Interior Ministry-appointed mayor of Ofakim, Zvi "Zvika" Greengold, rented a home near his office to spare himself the long drive from his permanent residence in Herzliya.

Greengold had no intention of living in the hardscrabble western Negev city, however, and instead moved to neighboring Moshav Ranen.

When asked by the Ofakim Municipality to explain the decision, Greengold replied, "I'm renting there, because there are no apartments in Ofakim."

Haaretz has learned that an average apartment on the moshav costs NIS 2,600 to rent each month, while in Ofakim the cost is NIS 1,800. The Interior Ministry, which authorized Greengold's choice of residence, confirmed that the mayor's expenses are paid by the municipality.

"This shows how much Zvika Greengold is unaffiliated with Ofakim. He is interested only in the high salary he's receiving - he would rather live on a clean, well-groomed moshav than in the dirty city he's responsible for," said Yaakov Cohen, a social activist in the city.

"It's unacceptable that an appointed mayor would rent a home on a moshav instead of in Ofakim - it's just chutzpah. I understand his need for a home, but why on a moshav outside the city?" said a municipal employee yesterday.

"Apparently he didn't want to run into any struggling residents, and preferred the peace and quiet of the moshav," he added.

Greengold was born on Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta'ot, near Nahariya, and eventually moved to the Galilee. He was one of only eight winners of the Israel Defense Forces' prestigious Medal of Valor, for courageous acts during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where as a 21-year-old tank commander, he succeeded single-handedly to outwit Syrian units on the northern front.

"I would expect someone who received the Medal of Valor in the Yom Kippur War to set a slightly different personal example. He always speaks of his vision of bringing young people back to Ofakim, but he himself prefers the moshav," the employee said.

The Ofakim Municipality said in response: "According to Interior Ministry regulations, an appointed mayor who does not live in the city under his responsibility may stay in a three-star hotel for three nights a week at the expense of NIS 3,000 a month.

"Ofakim pays much less than that for the apartment on Moshav Ranen. The mayor wanted to live in Ofakim, but when he couldn't find an available apartment in the city, he contacted Ranen."

The Interior Ministry said Greengold "was authorized to rent accommodations to be close to his place of work. Mr. Zvika Greengold is not an elected council head, and is therefore authorized to live near Ofakim."