Meet the candidates in Efrat - Judea's English-speaking city

Arutz Sheva asks mayoral candidates, parties what sets them apart, what kind of community they will leave our children, and a word to Olim.

Mordechai Sones ,

Efrat: The next generation
Efrat: The next generation
Flash 90

Founded in 1983, Efrat today is home to more than 9,000 residents, with between a quarter and a half from English-speaking countries. The elections for local city council in Israel will be held on October 30, 2018.

Voters have the option to make their choices for mayor and municipal council separately. There are two contenders for mayor, and six party lists (two of which belong to the mayoral candidates) to choose from, with a white ballot to choose party and a yellow ballot for position of mayor. There are thirteen seats on the Municipal Council to be filled according to proportional representation.

Arutz Sheva presents the answers to three questions posed to the two mayoral candidates and five of the lists running for Efrat Municipal Council. 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 Efrat 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?

Incumbent Mayor Oded Revivi:

“The Efrat faction is characterized by being most diverse in every respect. It has a combination of council members holding a fourth term and new candidates who are competing for the first time for the council.

“It has the highest percentage of women, it has the oldest council member at age 67, and has the youngest candidate at age 23. It has the highest percentage of women, it has the highest percentage of English speakers - about 70% of the list are English speakers at the mother tongue\native language level. We have representation from all neighborhoods and representation by parents of children in all the educational institutions.

“For us, the answer to this question is easy. In the last 10 years, we’ve demonstrated how we grew Efrat both physically and socially, and therefore all the improvements, changes, additions, and expansions that the residents have seen in the last 10 years will only intensify."

Oded Revivi (pointing) with Civil Administration head in Efrat
Flash 90

“Over the past ten years, we’ve done a great deal to successfully absorb the new immigrants. We helped provide assistance to children of new immigrants, a school for senior citizens in English, parts of Efrat's newsletter are translated into English, we held meetings with residents in English, and we set up simultaneous translation into English at important meetings. The Council's immigrant absorption coordinator increased the staff with additional manpower, enabling better and more professional service to help immigrants overcome the challenges of their absorption.

“As noted above, there are many who speak English from home, and we have five new immigrants and another seven who were born to parents who immigrated to Israel.”

Challenger Avi Hadida:

“The main difference between me and Oded is the ability to work in cooperation with my partners and with almost all of the factions running for the Council. I always say that I don’t have all the truth and all the wisdom, and I’ll work with them in cooperation and lead Efrat forward together.

“In five year’s time, there are many challenges to deal with in the infrastructure of various neighborhoods, cellular reception, completing construction of the new neighborhoods, improving transportation, and reducing the cost-of-living for families with children.

“Alongside this, we’ll work to develop Efrat and increase it with the Eitam neighborhood, but we won’t forget to take care of proper infrastructure before new residents are absorbed so we won’t reach the situation we’re living in today."

Avi Hadida (R) with Culture Minister Miri Regev
Meir Elifor

“From a social point of view, I see Efrat as a diverse community that knows how to contain all the shades of the Jewish People, but we’ll also make sure to preserve Efrat's uniqueness as it is today, according to the characteristics already found in the existing neighborhoods.

“I appreciate and greatly value the contribution of our English-speaking residents to the community, so #2 on my list, Rachie Gold came from the United States, as is #4 on the list Marianne Tanzer, through whom I’m well connected to the needs of the English-speaking community.”

One Efrat neighborhood
Mordechai Sones

Efrat Sheli - Chagit Moriah-Gibor:

“We want to represent the different residents of Efrat. We’re not connected to any person running for mayor, and not connected to any political party. We have different political views amongst ourselves, and even different opinions about who should be mayor. But the main thing is that we want to bring a system into the municipality that will enable the residents of Efrat to know exactly what’s going on in the municipality, to affect what’s going on - and it goes both ways.

“The main thing, our top priority is to build community councils, which can be either a neighborhood council, or a certain community council. Each neighborhood in Efrat actually has very different needs. The issues that people in Tamar or Zayit neighborhoods have are not the same issues that people in Te’ena or Gefen have.”

Efrat Sheli
Miriam Adler

Moriah-Gibor mentioned specific issues to illustrate her point: While retroactive authorization of zoning irregularities may concern Dagan neighborhood residents, Tamar neighborhood might focus on infrastructure. The Zayit neighborhood is embroiled in a controversy regarding a planned shopping mall and new residential units that some residents claim will wreak havoc with traffic and parking, and will diminish water pressure in the area. Older neighborhoods Gefen and Te’ena are blessed with senior citizens, many of whom are among the founders of the great community, where simple wheelchair accessibility needs to be addressed. She also wants to establish a nursing home fashioned after other successful community institutions in Israel that combine the service they provide with a restaurant, conference rooms, and facilities to attract younger family members to come, enjoy, and not be stifled by a depressing environment.

“The neighborhoods have different needs, and within them there are also communities of different people. Besides the senior citizens there are also single-parent families who are a community in my eyes because they have a lot of needs in terms of different things they have to pay for and services the municipality has to help them with. We have handicapped people and we have Olim.

“So by organizing these community councils, people with the same issues will sit at a round-table discussion with a town council representative who can hear their issues and understand exactly what they need. People can bring forward important questions that will be entered into the protocol in the meeting.

“It also works the other way around, so if there’s a very important vote or issues such as the big mall in Zayit: The first time such a thing is even brought up we want to be able to go back to the citizens, the residents of Efrat, learn the issue from different angles, and think of things we didn’t think about before we actually go and vote and make important decisions.

“As it stands now, most people don’t even know there is a council, or who or how many people are on it. A lot of people just write directly to the Mayor, which is very ineffective I think. I know from different stories of actual people that you write your issue and even if you get a meeting, there’s nothing binding. People can tell you ‘You know what, we’ll take care of this or that,’ I’ve heard of single parents or handicapped people who had issues and are told ‘Okay, we’ll take care of it,’ but it’s not written anywhere. If we bring it as a question on protocol in a meeting, or we ask to summon the head of a certain department that has to do with that issue, it’s all written down and it has to be dealt with.

“Five years from now I'd really hope there would be plans for future generations. Just for example, the Tamar and Dagan neighborhoods were planned in 1992 by then-Mayor Yinon Achiman. It took 25 years but it’s his plan; it’s thanks to him. Today in 2018 there are no active plans for Eitam neighborhood, for instance. We have to start thinking forward. I hope in five years that the different communities in Efrat all feel that their issues are taken care of, and whatever comes up, they have an address.

“Our list has people who are Olim themselves. Number 2 on our list is Zev Gershinsky and he’s the Vice-CEO of Nefesh b’Nefesh, so everything that has to do with aliya and taking care of Olim is before our eyes. I’m connecting it to what I said before: Having a system or having certain funds, or even having a person in charge of any given community who is able to be in touch with them in a very transparent way and bring forward any issues that come up with families who made aliya and have their own issues – I know it’s not very easy – to take care of their youth and everything that has to do with them. So even just having that address and having that person and looking at them as a community unto themselves, I think that’s very important and that can help with many issues as a whole.

“Our #4, Meir Deutsch, is Deputy Director of the Regavim Movement for protecting Israel's sovereignty and resources. They’re very involved in what’s going on with the land. He talks a lot about the illegal building behind Efrat that you can see towards the north. That's something he wants to address and make sure we talk to people in Knesset and government about. That’s an issue we don’t want to let go under the radar because you have to realize that they’re building and you have to do something about it because these are all lands that are supposed to be the future. Our kids and our grandchildren – where are they going to live?”

Shomrei HaSaf Efrat - Efrat Watch - Avraham Ben Tzvi:

“We are the first ever independent list in Efrat to run independently without a mayoral candidate (excluding the list by Moshe Cohen, about 15 years ago); that’s one thing that sets us apart.

“The second thing is that we are the first list headed by a new immigrant in Efrat in probably a quarter-century. As you know, Efrat has a lot of new immigrants, and even though we don’t present ourselves as a new immigrant list, I think that’s a significant point.

“Because I went to Yeshiva University for my first degree and I made Aliyah in my mid-20’s and then did law school in Israel, we’re able to mediate between the Israeli way of doing things and the views and perspectives of Olim. We have the youngest candidate on our list - a 21-year-old soldier. We have Olim on our list from very different countries – Australia, England, Canada, America, different parts of America, we also have a Spanish-speaking oleh on our list, the first time anyone from South America has been included that prominently on a list, and they have their own issues that have to be dealt with."

Efrat Watch

“I think it’s good to have someone on the Council and especially heading the list who really understands what it is to go through and make Aliyah, not 30 years ago but now, to be able to speak to people, and sometimes you have to learn to adjust to a different perspective, but we have to work to promote better absorption, learning English, there’s a challenge for the children. I have to be honest, a lot of these issues are dealt with in Efrat, but I think we can step it up a bit and make it a bit more prominent.

“The other factors that set us apart, and I think this is the most important one, is the fact that we are a non-political list, a movement of the people. We’re not interested in any jobs at the council, we’re not affiliated with a national political party, Naftali Bennett’s not going to tell us what to do, coalition concerns in the national government are not going to drive our decision-making.

“For example, in the next term Rabbi Riskin’s term ends and there’ll be an election panel for selecting a new Chief Rabbi. We will appoint someone in there who is independent of any national, coalition, or political party considerations. We don’t want to be a paid Deputy Mayor like the folks at Efrat Sheli, even though they’re saying now they don’t want that.

“The mayoral candidate’s lists - they obviously have their allegiance to the Mayor, and they dance to the tune of the Mayor and the Mayor drives the direction. We’re a truly independent list; when there’s an election body to appoint a new Chief Rabbi when Rabbi Riskin’s term ends in May, our appointee will be independent of any political or national party considerations or coalition considerations, we’re completely independent of any of that, and I think the other lists are just copying us; there are a lot more lists now since the message got out, and we still feel we’re the most independent list running for the Council.

“In terms of where we are in five years, all of the buzzwords about autocracy and transparency, and hearing other voices - now everyone’s talking about it. Three months ago in Efrat 70% of the people didn’t even know you could split your vote for the mayor and the Council, let alone know that the Municipal Planning and Building Committee are the same people as the people on the Council. Now everyone’s an expert on the Planning and Building Committee, everyone knows what the word ‘Taba’ means, everyone knows what the Licensing Committee is, and I think when we come down to it in five years, like I said at the last panel, if Efrat is being run like a city, and in most cities in Israel there are many different lists on the council and Efrat - in five years we'll hopefully have twenty-thousand people, the Eitam Hill will be developed. We went up to Eitam to stay up there – by the way, that’s another difference, we have the first person ever running in Efrat who’s on Eitam Hill – Nava Katz and her family went up to the Eitam Hill. Most importantly people will know exactly what their obligations are to the Council, the Council will know what its obligations are to the people, everything will be transparent, enforcement procedures and policies will be transparent, meetings of the Planning Committee will be transparent and announced in advance; these are all things that we're going to implement.”

In Efrat
Flash 90

Yachad - Dovi Shefler:

"What's unique about our list, the Yahad faction of the Efrat Council, is that it's composed of connections. Connection between veteran and experienced council members and new and fresh candidates with new concepts on the list. Connecting residents from different neighborhoods. Connection that expresses the wide and special variety in Efrat, a community in which new immigrants, veteran immigrants, and Sabras live together in close proximity.

"And what connects all of us in this faction is enthusiasm and a desire to make Efrat better. A connection that will make us work for the residents in the next five years. Thanks to us, in five years, the council in Efrat will be a more inviting place for residents to be involved and to be partners in the important decisions that affect the entire community as well as decisions regarding the daily lives of residents of a given street."

Yachad Spokesman

"Our slogan is 'A council that works for you and with you!'. Infrastructure in Efrat, public transportation, innovative technology to help control systems ('Smart City'), water and sewage, leisure and Torah culture, commerce and business - will grow with the size of the developing community and, thanks to us, Efrat will continue to be 'a good place to live'.

"The immigrants among us were told that just as Efrat was established thanks to the vision and leadership of Moshe Moskowitz (Moshko), we must honor Rabbi Riskin, the city's rabbi who moved his community from the United States to Efrat and thus symbolizes and stabilizes Efrat as a city that accepts immigrants for future generations as well, as a city with about 25% immigrants from Anglo-Saxon countries.

"We'll continue to make sure that the publications and services of the Council are accessible in the language of immigrants who aren't sufficiently proficient in Hebrew. This is of course a population that needs special attention in the field of social and welfare services, 'Get thee forth from thy land and from thy birthplace and from thy father's house to the Land I will show thee...' - in reference to the personal and communal significance of each family. It's important to us that the new immigrants tell their families and friends who remain in the Diaspora how 'very good the Land is,' and the wave of immigration to Israel in general and to Efrat in particular will continue in the years to come."

Efrat 2018 Municipal Election Panel Debate - Thursday October 18 (Hebrew):

BIGA - Efrat
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