Yesterday, Jerusalem’s secular mayoral candidate, Mr. Nir Barkat, won the municipal election with 52% of the vote. His ultra-orthodox opponent, Rabbi Meir Porush, was close behind with 43%. The Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center cannot, of course, support any of the candidates, as one of our most important functions is the enabling of fair dialogue and negotiations between the many identities in the city. The members of the JICC board, representing different groups in the city – Palestinians and Jews, ultra-orthodox and members of other religious denominations – supported various candidates.
Nevertheless, most of the 31 members of the newly elected City Council are new to their role, and they too represent many different identity groups and attitudes. It is our role to help them create effective and profound dialogue amongst themselves, as well as between them and the Jerusalem residents.
The JICC aspires to promote Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City – and we hope to convince the new Council to adopt this approach. We will try to enhance the impact of the Jerusalem Employment Coalition on the decisionmaking process in the municipality. The municipality is a member of the coalition, which was founded and is facilitated by the JICC. In addition, the JICC has already started a dialogue process between main ultra-orthodox and non-ultra orthodox groups touching upon the issue of living together in Jerusalem. We would like the municipality to be a partner to the thinking process and to the implementation of the outcomes.
In recent years, we attempted to improve the dialogue between the municipality and the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, most of whom feel alienated from the municipality and therefore ban the elections. We hope that this dialogue will now intensify and result in better infrastructure and services in East Jerusalem.
To conclude, we see the elections’ results as an opportunity for positive change in the city, hopefully through the cooperation of the many rival groups at the City Council. To respond to these new challenges and opportunities the JICC will shortly initiate meetings with City Council members.