Ten-year-old Elad, with well over 30,000 hareidi and religious residents, was named a full-fledged city on Tuesday.
At a ceremony on Tuesday attended by municipal and national-level dignitaries, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit declared the Local Council of Elad a municipality. He praised the residents' accomplishments, saying, "I decided quite quickly to upgrade Elad's status to that of a city, because the time has come to do this, and the time has come for us to recognize the contribution of the residents who came to live here. Don't forget that Elad began with a little neighborhood built on empty land; this is your contribution to the development of the Land."
As is his wont, Sheetrit also took the opportunity to tell off the city's public. Turning to Shas Party leader Eli Yeshai, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Sheetrit asked him to "open a new trend in the hareidi public in Israel, along the lines of our rabbis and fathers of old, involving work and army service together with the study of sacred texts and wisdom." He also told the residents themselves that it is of "utmost importance for people in the city to find jobs and support, and not to live in poverty or from government allocations."
Sheetrit even made a comment about the customary separation of men and women at the ceremony, causing some awkwardness among the attendees.
Two years ago this month, Sheetrit, who was Minister of Education at the time, met with junior high school girls from the religious Samaria community of Beit El, and treated them to a torrent of sarcasm, anger and insulting remarks. Beit El Education Department Chairman Menachem Lev, who was present for part of the meeting, said, "He simply lost it. He interrupted them, yelled a lot, and mocked them again and again... He asked them if they study together with boys, and why not, and how do they manage without boys, and 'how do you know it's better without boys if you never tried it?' He gave them a whole grilling on this topic, putting them in a very awkward situation... He was also full of sarcasm, saying things like, 'Sure, sure, the police hit you' [at the Amona incident two weeks earlier - ed.] and the like."
Elad was founded ten years ago, and now numbers well over 32,000 residents. Most of them are hareidi, but about 1,000 families are counted in the religious-Zionist community, which has nine synagogues, three elementary schools, and its own rabbi (as does the Yemenite and other communities in Elad).
Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Rishon LeTzion, also addressed the audience, as did Tel Aviv's Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Elad's two chief rabbis, MKs Moshe Gafni and Meir Porush, and Mayor Tzvika Cohen.
Minister Yeshai, in his remarks, took the opportunity to address Cabinet Secretary Oved Yechezkel and remind him of the importance of continued construction and building in the Jerusalem area.
Though some residents complain of excess politicization in the upper echelons of the city leadership, it appears to be a matter of consensus that the city is awash with people and organizations who give freely of their time and money to help others.
From One Woman to Another
"There are many gmachim [free-loan funds]," one woman told Arutz-7, "and a food distribution system, and we also have a very unique project called 'From One Woman to Another.' It involves women from all sectors of the town - a cooperative effort which is unique in and of itself. The town's welfare department was collapsing under the burden of dealing with all the needy cases here, and the wives of most of the town's rabbis - hareidi, Hassidic, religious-Zionist, and more - got together to see how they could help. What developed was a working group that meets periodically, a course for volunteer social workers, and a round of women who go to homes that need their help."
Elad is also known for its well-planned streets and parks, as well as the external attractiveness of its buildings.