The youngest mayoral candidate in the Jerusalem race and founder of the Hisorarus party, Ofer Berkowitz, 35, promises to rid the capital of “chareidi extortion” if he is successful in his bid to become the next mayor of Yerushalayim. Berkowitz, according to all polls, remains a front runner in the race. He is the only secular candidate running with a realistic chance of an election win.
Berkowitz spoke with the Times of Israel, explaining that while he is young, he has already amassed ten years of experience on the Jerusalem city council, as a volunteer, and for four years, he served as a salaried deputy mayor of the capital.
As one of the leaders in the race, he remains confident as he believes his voter base will include secular residents, as well as liberal dati leumi and working chareidim. The chareidi parties have split; backing candidates Moshe Leon and Ze’ev Elkin. He also benefited somewhat when candidate Rachel Azariya announced she was dropping out of the race. she officially called on supporters to back Elkin, but many were displeased with her endorsement, accusing her of selling out and having made a deal with Elkin.
Born and bred in Jerusalem, Berkowitz rose to the rank of captain during his six years in the IDF, and now vows to fight to clean up the streets of Jerusalem and to address other major issues, including high unemployment among Arab women in the eastern capital. Regarding the deplorable lack of cleanliness in the city, he plans to beginning issuing fines for littering until people learn not to drop their litter on the city’s streets.
After his discharge from the IDF in 2008, he launched his Hisorarus party to attract other young minded individuals who share his vision to improve the quality of life in the capital, lower housing prices, take on the owners of ghost apartments and homes and more. He feels that owners of the so-called ghost apartments should pay triple the taxes they pay today, as this would encourage them to rent them out when they are abroad instead of leaving them empty as they do today. He told the Times of Israel, if they are here for a month, they can rent a hotel room rather than owning a property that stands empty most of the year.
He does not approve of the current trend of the ongoing construction intended for the wealthy while the young and others wishing to live in the capital are simply being priced out.
Regarding the chareidim in the city and their political representatives, he feels his major opponents, Elkin and Leon, will not work with the chareidim, but rather, they will be run by the chareidim. However, if he is elected, this will not be the case. Berkowitz explains for those two, their voter base includes chareidim, so they have no way out, but for him, it is an entirely different reality so he will bring an end to the chareidi parties flexing their political muscle to take control. He correctly adds that he is the only real veteran resident of the capital, as Leon moved from Givatayim in 2013, while Elkin came recently, to permit entering the mayoral race.
The Times quotes Berkowitz saying, “The other candidates are liable to capitulate to the chareidi extortion and may not understand the strategic steps the city needs to take in order to flourish and get on the right track. They weren’t partners in the successes of recent years: the vibrant cultural [scene], economic development, the urban revolution…. I don’t think they know what is needed, I don’t think they know the city well enough, I don’t think they understand what to do here.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)