A couple of voters in Bet Shemesh
A couple of voters in Bet Shemesh
A couple of voters in Bet Shemesh

By Shmuel Katz

I am sure that most of you know the Bet Shemesh revote results, the incumbent mayor, Moshe Abutbol, defeating challenger Eli Cohen for the second time. Both sides, again, accused each other of inappropriate tactics, but I have not heard of allegations of voter fraud as there were in the last elections. Although there was a 7% increase in turnout, both sides were equally aggressive in getting their voters to show up to the polls.

Interestingly, on Election Day an announcement was made that the several hundred families who never vote because of ideological reasons were given a special p’sak to vote for this election, and reportedly several hundred of them did indeed vote (as is their right as citizens). The announced margin of victory was the same and the city now moves on.

Here are some things that did not happen. With the vote conducted fairly, there were no demonstrations or riots. There is no public outcry for residents of the city to demand their rights to not have a chareidi mayor and city council. There is no hue and cry from the Religious Zionist or secular crowds (maybe lamentations, but no hue and cry). We do not spend time calling the mayor or any of the chareidi councilmen “Nazis” or “Amalek” or any other hateful term (a bit shortsighted, maybe, but nothing hateful).

In short, we had an election. We lost. We have to live with the results. That is what it means to live in a democracy.

And yes, despite the panic and posturing of many of our neighbors, we have not seen a sudden mass migration from Bet Shemesh. The non-chareidi communities are almost enclave-like. If not for things like school and park funding (and maintenance) as well as certain cultural events (the annual chol ha’moed Sukkot festival which drew thousands from around the country has been severely curtailed the past couple of years), most of the people here will not notice much of a difference in their day-to-day lives.

I hear, both from the religious and non-religious communities here, that the demand for non-chareidi housing in Bet Shemesh is dwindling. Their children have no desire to live here. Families from outside Bet Shemesh have no desire to live here. And, as things develop, should our schools and neighborhoods be ignored in favor of others, we expect that we too will soon have less of a desire to live here.

The Katzes, who rent, have contemplated leaving several times over the past couple of years. As the yeshiva continues to grow, we hope to have sufficient reason to move closer to it. Our younger kids will be at an opportune time to move in three more years, so we are hoping to be able to continue to rent here in Bet Shemesh for at least that long. After that, we’ll see what happens.

Which is all another way of saying, “We lost and if we don’t like the results we can either live with it or leave.” Sound familiar?

On a positive note, we had a terrific Purim and are gearing up for our big simcha Thursday night and Shabbat. Our out-of-town relatives (those who are able to make it) have already begun to arrive and the final arrangements are being worked out for Shabbat (head count, sleeping arrangements, etc.). We are really geared up to enjoy.

Goldie has been terrific, coordinating 98% of everything (while still running the household, working, etc.). I have been outrageously busy with work and am just happy that Mordechai and I were able to finish all our work on his siyum and leining. Writing the speeches has also been tough–having to accommodate our Hebrew-only and English-only guests is quite the challenge.

I have had the privilege of sharing quite a few first steps with you over the years. This will hopefully be just another first step of many more to come. v

Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at shmu@migdalhatorah.org.

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