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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Parallel to Javor’s campaign, a Tel Aviv movement called Kol Oleh — which means both “rising voice” and “immigrant’s voice” — aims to get out the vote among the city’s Anglos. The group is hosting candidates’ forums in English leading up to Election Day, and over the summer hosted parlor meetings to discuss municipal issues with local Anglos.

“Decisions were being made and it seemed like the population had no connection to things going on around them,” said Guy Seemann, the head of Kol Oleh. “Kol Oleh wanted to start with the elections as a benchmark to get involved in civil society.”

But Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tzur, a native of England whose slate boasts a handful of Anglos, says English-speaking immigrants must learn Hebrew rather than relying on English-language services.

“Wherever they go in the world, they’re so confident that their language is known by everybody,” said Tzur, who moved to Israel in 1966. “They remain in a colony of their own and there are very few who break out of that cocoon.

“You can’t have just enough Hebrew to go shopping or talk to your neighbor about a leak in the roof. You need to be really fluent.”

As newcomers to their slates, many of the Anglo candidates have a slim chance of winning seats in their respective councils. But Leventhal says that any Anglo political activism will help advance the community no matter the result.

“Americans come from a culture of community, concern and respect,” he said. “They’re not going to want to come to a city that doesn’t provide quality of life.”


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