Arutz Sheva exclusive
Mayoral candidate: 'Move J'lem forward while honoring its past'

Hitorerut's Ofer Berkovitch: 'Grassroots movement putting Jerusalem first as Zionist front to ensure survival of Israel’s eternal capital.'

Mordechai Sones,

Ofer Berkovitch
Ofer Berkovitch
Flash 90

The elections for the Jerusalem City Council will be held on October 30, 2018.

Arutz Sheva presents the answers to three questions posed to the four main candidates for Jerusalem Mayor. All candidates were asked identical questions:

  • What sets you apart from your competitors as a compelling reason to vote for you?
  • Assuming you win and succeed in advancing and implementing everything on your platform, how do you envision Jerusalem in five years from now, both physically and culturally?
  • And what would you say to the English-speaking voter or new immigrant to show them you understand their challenges and situations, and would be their right choice?

Ofer Berkovitch heads the Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party (‘Wake Up Jerusalem’). While not initially thought of as a front-runner, he has managed to claw his way to the front of the closely-watched race.

Mayoral candidates: Deitch, Berkovitch, Lion, and Elkin
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Following recent favorable surveys, Berkovitch called on other candidates to unite behind him to push back against the haredi parties' growing influence. "The Jerusalem public continues to show that it is not moved by political deals and wheeler-dealers," he said.

"The survey shows that the Jerusalemites continue to choose the only Jerusalem candidate who represents the Zionist majority and the religious Zionists in the city. It's time to unite... Together we will bring victory. Together we will preserve Jerusalem for all of us."

What sets you apart from your competitors as a compelling reason to vote for you?

"I was born and raised in Jerusalem. I grew up here and I understand the challenges of Jerusalem residents better than any other candidates. Keeping in mind the issues that we, the residents, care about most, I've led a movement that grew from the bottom up - a grassroots movement that puts Jerusalem first as a Zionist front to ensure the survival of Israel’s eternal capital.

"Our campaign has sought to unite the city’s Zionist population while other campaigns have spread accusations to divide us. Divisive campaigns are spread by divisive parties and aren't relevant to the Anglo community in Jerusalem - I promise to continue to work towards a united front based on the values and goals of our community.

"Towards this end, for the past ten years, I have led Hitorerut as the party worked hard every day to improve people’s lives in areas including culture, transportation, and economic development, among many others. For ten years, we have built the city up with a team represented by those like you - women and men, young and old, secular and religious, sabras and olim. These groups, though diverse, share the same concerns and challenges that we face on a daily basis.

"We've helped bring in tech startups, renovated business centers, ended Egged’s monopoly, planned the first cultural events in the Shuk, found solutions for abandoned buildings, supported non-profits that work with olim, brought WeWork to the city, improved the municipal response for at-risk youth, and created a municipal framework for August daycare, among other successes."

Ofer Berkovitch
Flash 90

Assuming you win and succeed in advancing and implementing everything on your platform, how do you envision Jerusalem in five years from now, both physically and culturally?

"Jerusalem is the most beautiful and historic city in the world and the holiest city for the Jewish People. Under my leadership, it'll stay this way in the future. However, there are some areas that need improvement: First, in order to reflect Jerusalem’s holiness and beauty, it must be made cleaner. As Jerusalem’s mayor, I want the city to be the cleanest in the world.

"I also aim to make Jerusalem more affordable for people who'd like to buy a home - towards these ends, I have a clear housing plan to decrease the city’s housing prices. I'm opposed to the ongoing freeze in construction in East Jerusalem and I believe we should continue to build all across the city for housing prices to decrease.

"To bring economic development to the city, I plan to bring large conglomerates that will create jobs, while ensuring that the city’s zoning and taxation laws make business in Jerusalem an attractive option for everyone from startups to publicly-traded international corporations.

"One of the most unique aspects of Jerusalem is its incredible diversity. To maintain this diversity, we must find a way to live and thrive together despite our differences. I've begun to foster this unity by welcoming anyone - no matter their political leaning, religious observance, etc. - who wants to work towards Jerusalem to join our party. Everything that we've done, we've accomplished without any connections to national parties, allowing us to welcome everyone who truly wants to work for Jerusalem.

"Ultimately, we're a movement for whom Zionism is in our very DNA. The party was created to ensure the survival of the city’s Zionist population and reverse the troubling trend of negative population growth among Zionists. In the next five years, we'll continue to focus on these goals by cleaning the city, addressing the rising price of housing, reducing bureaucratic barriers, strengthening the city’s economy, maintaining the dynamic nature of cultural and collective life, improving public transportation, and much more."

And what would you say to the English-speaking voter or new immigrant to show them you understand their challenges and situations, and would be their right choice?

"Hitorerut has already been working on solving issues for olim for many years. Our Anglo team is led by Dan Illouz, a current member of the city council who will be continuing to successfully tackle these important issues in the coming term. The many olim on our list come from various countries and backgrounds, speak multiple languages, and most importantly, have a proven history of harnessing their passion to improve life for those around them.

"The two Anglos on Hitorerut’s list, Dan and Yoni Mann, have already put together an impressive list of accomplishments for Jerusalem’s community of olim including supporting non-profits run by and for olim, helping youth movements that integrate olim, and getting additional funding for organizations focusing on the successful absorption and integration of olim into life in Jerusalem. Our team of olim understands the challenges facing those adjusting to life in a new land, first and foremost the inaccessibility of municipal services in their mother tongue, relevant cultural events, and suitable employment. Hitorerut is the only party with a detailed platform to promote the successful integration of olim. We value the important contributions that olim make to Jerusalem, and we take our commitment to helping them realize their massive potential seriously.

"When you go out to vote on October 30th, you're participating in a more than 3,000-year-old tradition in which the people of Jerusalem choose their leader. We know that you will cast your vote for the candidate and party that put the city first, uniting the people with a vision that moves Jerusalem forward while honoring its past."

To see Arutz Sheva's interview with Yossi Deitch, click here.

To see Arutz Sheva's interview with Ze'ev Elkin, click here.

To see Arutz Sheva's interview with Moshe Leon, click here.

Berkovitch at protest tent, Jerusalem
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