Before moving to Israel, I dreamed of a state led by people who felt a spiritual connection with this land and its

Few religious contenders reached the highest decision-making levels.

people, leaders who understood that it is this spirituality that enabled us to survive 2,000 years of dispersion and to return home.

The intertwining of the Land of Israel, the Jewish People and the Torah meant that these leaders would, ideally, be observant Jews who would emphasize the Judaic values common to all, while appreciating the innate holiness of the power they hold. More realistically, I imagined non-observant leaders who would respect the sanctity of Judaism and treat religious citizens with respect and fairness.

It goes without saying that this is not quite what occurred. Few religious contenders reached the highest decision-making levels; and the religious public learned to its chagrin that non-religious leaders who received their support promised one thing before being elected and delivered another once they reached office. The latter found it easy to give up parts of the Land of Israel, ignore the Torah of Israel and act with shocking cruelty towards members of the People of Israel. It seemed that their ties to the land, unsupported by Torah Judaism, was skin deep at best. While this does not describe all of them, it is enough to lead us to sobering reflections on the kind of leaders we choose.

In Jerusalem, the choice is clearer than in other places, even without taking into account the imminent danger of dividing the city. Jerusalem is a unique city, the sacred place in which our Holy Temple stood. If we have the opportunity, what can be better than to choose a mayor for Jerusalem who prays for G-d’s return to Zion three times each day? We are then electing someone who understands the eternal love of Zion that Jews kept alive through centuries of Diaspora; and what is that if not the highest form of Zionism?

If the choice is between non-observant contenders, then the only factors to take into account are governing experience, political and economic views, and the like. However, when there is a suitable, experienced candidate who keeps the Torah’s commandments, and who promises to address aesthetic, educational and cultural needs of all sectors, this factor takes precedence. This is true whether he is hareidi-religious or religious-Zionist. After all, the Torah was given over from one generation to another by all observant Jews, way before the idea of the return to Zion was raised. This is the supreme criterion, overriding the divisions, deep though they are, on the issues of statehood and army service that have no bearing on municipal problems anyway.

A religious mayor will preserve the special character of Jerusalem. Jews all over the world and visitors to the city all expect an atmosphere of holiness. This should not prevent secular families from living in the city, unless they are planning to demand more desecration of the Sabbath and a more secular atmosphere. Why shouldn’t their children be exposed to the beauty of Jewish heritage? They will then make their own decisions about the type of life they want to lead. What kind of prejudice has made it possible for opponents to say that they are uncomfortable with having a mayor with kippah, beard and sidelocks in our holiest city?

There is no denying that the hareidi leadership (not including the present candidate, who helped Judea, Samaria and Gaza in many ways in his former capacities) disappointed religious-Zionists during the Disengagement period.

What kind of prejudice has made it possible for opponents to say that they are uncomfortable with having a mayor with kippah, beard and sidelocks.

That has left a scar, but that community’s leaders did not initiate that travesty and it is impossible to imagine them ever doing so. It is the secular, hypocritical decision-makers elected on a right-wing platform who planned it without batting an eyelash.

Outgoing Mayor Uri Lupoliansky actually built playgrounds in hareidi neighborhoods and helped large families improve their housing after years of neglect. Hareidi donors from abroad added glistening Jerusalem stone synagogues and yeshivas to hareidi neighborhoods, so as to take part in the religious growth in Jerusalem he espoused. That, too, is culture, and religious-Zionist voters should be happy to see it.

Religious-Zionists do not have the numerical strength to run a candidate for mayor, although that is a future possibility. Their able representatives knew how to get their share of the budget in the past, and they will get the same or more from a religious mayor. Hopefully, they are preparing the ground for that now.

The possibility that a truly Torah observant person will be mayor of Jerusalem should fill our hearts with joy.