The greatly respected religious-Zionist Rabbi Haim Druckman has declared his support for candidate Eli Cohen in the race for Mayor of Beit Shemesh. Cohen will get a second chance to unseat incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul after a court disqualified the 2013 Beit Shemesh elections due to fraud.
“In every place, one should listen to the local rabbis. The rabbis of Beit Shemesh have signed a letter supporting Eli Cohen… Rabbis outside the city may not rule differently,” Rabbi Druckman declared.
The reference was apparently to religious-Zionist rabbis in Beit Shemesh. Cohen is widely supported by the city’s Zionist parties, including the Jewish Home party, while Abutbul enjoys support from the hareidi factions.
Rabbi Druckman praised Cohen for his work on behalf of Diaspora Jews during his years working for the Jewish Agency. “With your work on behalf of the nation of Israel, people should do what they can to help you become mayor,” he declared.
Rabbi Druckman supported Cohen prior to the first round of elections in Beit Shemesh as well.
Cohen has described himself as “traditional” (masorti), a term used by many to describe those who observe some elements of Judaism. He has also stated that he is “proud to live according to Jewish values” and that “Judaism is important to me.”
The battle between Cohen and Abutbul has been portrayed by many as a battle for the future of Beit Shemesh; specifically, whether the city will maintain a non-hareidi majority or will become a primarily hareidi city. Jewish Home party head Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has been among those calling the second round of elections the “last chance” for the city.
Abutbul has accused his opponents of overestimating the prevalence of fraud in the original vote due to their upset over the fact that a hareidi candidate won the election. He declared last week that he believes he will easily win the second elections.