Jerusalem mayoral candidates battle for Religious Zionist votes

Frontrunners for Jerusalem's top job Moshe Lion and Zeev Elkin in an arms race for endorsements from top Religious Zionist rabbis.

Tzvi Lev ,

Moshe Lion
Moshe Lion
Press release

The two frontrunners in Jerusalem's wide-open mayoral race have been slugging it out in a contest to court the Religious Zionist vote.

According to the polls, Moshe Lion and Ze'ev Elkin are neck to neck in the race for the capital city's top job, Both count themselves as part of the Religious Zionist community and both have been racing for endorsements from top Religious Zionist rabbis.

With a large Religious Zionist presence in the Nahlaot, Katamon, Talpiot, and Rehavia neighborhoods, and with the haredim making up more than 40% of the electorate, earning the National-Religious vote is critical for both Elkin and Lion's chances.

On Thursday, Elkin unveiled the endorsement of Yeshiva Har Etzion Dean Rabbi Yaakov Medan. A renowned scholar, Medan is influential in the more liberal Religious Zionist circles."Our capital, Jerusalem, and our holy city are complex and difficult to manage, probably more than anywhere else, and for many reasons," wrote Rabbi Medan in a letter of support for Elkin.

"The Jewish-Arab question, the Zionist-Haredi question, the secular-religious question, the question of Jerusalem's economic status and the new international consciousness of its development, which is indeed the capital of Israel, are fateful questions about its future," continued Medan. "The complexity, the delicacy, the experience, and the connections in different directions that need to be addressed in these problems are not usually possessed by one person, but they are in you."

Elkin also earned endorsements from senior Religious Zionist rabbis that hail from the movement's hardline wing, including Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dovid Lior, Bet El Chief Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, and Har Hamor Yeshiva Dean Rabbi Yehoshua Tzurkerman.

Not to be outdone, Lion got the endorsement of Esther Shtenberg, the wife of Har Hamor's other dean, Rabbi Ammiel Shternberg. "You will be privileged to lead Jerusalem to its special status as a united and complete city," she told him. Lion has also been campaigning in heavily religious neighborhoods and recently added Religious-Zionist lawyer Yoel Borshtien to his list for city council.

The Jerusalem Mayoral race is seen as wide open ever since current city head Nir Barkat recently announced he would not seek re-election in October, and that he would instead submit his candidacy for the Likud list for the Knesset elections in 2019.

Other candidates include city councilman Ofer Berkovitch, who heads the Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party (‘Wake Up Jerusalem’) coalition MK Rachel Azariya (Kulanu), and opposition MK Nahman Shai (Zionist Union).