English Speakers Grab Bigger Role in Israel Politics — Halting Hebrew and All

Americans and Brits Run for Office Across Holy Land

By Ben Sales

Published October 02, 2013.
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In the eight years since Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal moved from Baltimore to this central Israeli city of 80,000, he has trained as a technical writer, taken over a local charity and become president of his synagogue.

Now Leventhal is hoping to add city councilman to his resume.

Leventhal loves Beit Shemesh, but none of his children want to stay here — not because of the conflict between haredi and Modern Orthodox Jews that has plagued the city since 2010, he says, but because the city feels like it’s falling apart.

A local community center lacks a bathroom. Street cleaning is spotty. At a neighborhood school, children sit all day in converted trailers.

“I want to do whatever I can to make a Beit Shemesh that my children and everyone else’s children would want to live in,” Leventhal said. “It’s not a citizen-friendly city. There’s not a lot for youth, no cultural activities. It should have a whole menu of different activities and events.”

Leventhal is among a handful of English-speaking immigrants making first-time bids for public office in municipal elections on Oct. 22. A few English speakers, known here as Anglos, already serve on city councils.

But following a national election in January that saw the first American-born Knesset member in 25 years and increased political outreach to native English speakers, Anglos are now stepping up their activism in local campaigns.

One party in Jerusalem, Ometz Lev, features five Anglos in its top 11 spots. A native of Manchester, England, is expected to win a council seat in the central city of Modiin. And a Londoner is running on the mayor’s slate in Tel Aviv.


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