The Jerusalem Municipality was forced to disqualify the local election for community council in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood after haredi extremists stormed the counting room and destroyed some of the ballots. (At right: file photo.)
Mea Shearim elections disqualified after violence
Group of haredi men destroy ballots during counting; vote to take place at later date.
MELANIE LIDMAN • Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Municipality was forced to disqualify the local election for community council in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood on Tuesday after extremists stormed the counting room and destroyed some of the ballots. A new election will be held at a later date, the municipality decided on Thursday following the recommendations of the judge overseeing the elections.
Nearly 13,000 residents of Jerusalem took part in local elections to choose representatives for the community councils in four neighborhoods. Approximately 17% of eligible residents voted in the neighborhoods of Gilo, Greater Baka, South/Katamon, and the Buharim Quarter, which includes Mea Shaarim. The low turnout was expected as it is the first year that these communities can vote for their local council.
The Buharim Quarter elections were tense, with local rabbis threatening to enforce gender separation at the polls in the days leading up to the vote. A strong undercover police presence ensured that no gender separation took place and voting went peacefully for most of the day. However, at the very end of the night, extremists stormed the voting station in the Mea Shaarim neighborhood. Shouting “Women, get out!” a group of haredi men forced the women to leave and tore up the voting slips, according to a video from Channel 2.
“The municipality condemns every incident of violence, and the attempt to influence the elections is not the democratic approach,” said a spokeswoman on Thursday.
Haredi media said that the protest was more likely due to a competition between two candidates rather than an attempt to exclude women from voting.
The community councils are made up of nine elected members and six appointed members and deal with local issues such as cultural events, education, and ensuring that the municipality carries out services. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat renewed the election process for community councils last year, and each year four or five neighborhoods are expected to elect a new council.
Election organizers in the Buharim Quarter told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that both of the female candidates had dropped out of the election due to concern over the "lack of modesty" involved in campaigning. They called on the municipality to find an alternative way to allow women to take part in the community council leadership.
Police: Probe women's exclusion from J'lem vote
Capital's police chief demand ballots cast in haredi neighborhood during local council elections be disqualified due to claims women not allowed to vote
Yair Altman • Ynet
Jerusalem Police chief Nisso Shaham has demanded that votes cast at a polling station in Jerusalem's Strauss Street be disqualified due to claims that haredi men prevented women from participating in the elections for local community council head.
The elections were held on Tuesday in four neighborhoods in the capital, including Bucharim, Geula and Mea Shearim. The head of the Geula community council, Rabbi Ya’acov Fertig, who was running for reelection, had insisted that there would be separate lines at the polling stations or separate voting times for men and women in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. The plan infuriated city officials, who promised to send inspectors to oversee the vote.
On Thursday Shaham ordered an investigation into the events at the polling station on Strauss Street. According to information obtained by police, dozens of haredi men prevented a group of women from voting. In a letter to the director general of the Jerusalem Municipality, the police commander demanded that votes cast at the said polling station be disqualified.
Thursday evening saw 250 people, mostly women, protest in Herzliya over the exclusion of women in the public sphere. Some protesters carried signs reading 'From Rambam to Khomeini?'
During the rally, Herzliya Mayor Yael German said, "We are here to light a torch against darkness."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said the struggle was important to both genders. "Some of the men who are sitting at home do not realize that this struggle pertains to Israel as a whole. Today, Israel is a country in which women sit at the back of buses, a country where female soldiers are forbidden to sing," she said.
Livni said the exclusion of women was part of a radical wave that was sweeping the nation: "If some people think that throwing a cinder block at a brigade commander has nothing to do with the issue at hand they are mistaken. It is all part of a process which harms women and the court in order to grant more authority to certain rabbis – some of whom send (supporters) to burn mosques and call for disobedience – we will not agree to such an Israel and we will change it."
Yoav Malka contributed to this report.