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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“There’s always going to be this way that I look at the world that will be different from someone who grew up here,” said Jonny Cline, a professional fundraiser who moved to Modiin from Manchester 20 years ago and is third on the Jewish Home party slate. “The municipal level in Israel is something that is crucial.”

Some candidates say their top priorities are things many Anglos consider a given — transparent governing and competent city services among them. Candidates have made campaign issues out of crowded schools, insufficient police patrols and inefficient public transit.

Laura Wharton, a New Jersey native and Jerusalem city councillor with the left-wing Meretz party, said it’s hard to be satisfied with the capital’s public buses after growing up with New York City’s subways.

“I think the awareness that American citizens have for proper government and tolerance and openness are things the city really needs,” Wharton said. “They have high expectations, and that’s a good thing.”

Several Anglo candidates have promised that if elected, they will fight for the English-speaking community’s parochial issues.

Cline wants Modiin to fund workspaces for immigrants who work long-distance for U.S. companies. Jon Javor, running on the slate of center-left Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, wants to create a central hub where English speakers can pay city taxes, consult an accountant and receive help signing an apartment lease. Maya Tapiero, running with Jerusalem’s Ometz Lev, wants the city to publicize more cultural events in English.

“If you have a language barrier, how do you know what’s going on?” Javor asked. “I want to do my part in making sure everyone has the necessary tools so they can succeed here.”

Like most of the Anglo candidates, Javor came to politics through social action. He’s a lead organizer of the Tel Aviv International Salon, an English-language speaker series that has featured public figures from Finance Minister Yair Lapid to famed sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. He also helps run the Israeli Cinema Series, which shows famous Israeli films with English subtitles.

Javor’s social entrepreneurship, he says, has made him a welcome guest in the mayor’s office. “But that doesn’t mean that in City Hall we shouldn’t have representation,” he added.


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