On October 30, the Labour Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, former Air Force Brigadier General, 74, was re-elected with 46% of the vote. He is now in his fifth term. Gideon Levy explains why he voted for him.-Tlaxcala
If only Israel had a prime minister in power for 20 years with a balance sheet showing half the number of achievements as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai
In a couple of days I’ll merrily vote again for Ron Huldai and what I’m about to say will surely infuriate leftists. Asaf Zamir and Assaf Harel are worthy candidates – as were candidates Dov Khenin and Nitzan Horowitz in the past. But my heart goes out to the mayor who made Tel Aviv into what it is today.
Huldai deserves our thanks and admiration. Another term of office at the top of the building in Rabin Square is a fitting gesture, not only for him, but mainly for the sake of residents of the sanest place in hell, whose sanity has been preserved largely thanks to the Pied Piper from Hulda*.
They say he’s old, sated and weary, while his rivals are young and hungry; they say he’s a mayor for the rich, who has built towers in the sky; that there’s no parking and there are traffic jams; that there’s no proper public transport and that housing prices are worse than in Tokyo; that the school system is bad and Atarim Square** is still standing; that the city isn’t clean and the south has been neglected.
Most of these claims are correct though Huldai isn’t to blame for them all. But you cannot look at the beloved city of Tel Aviv and see only the bad in what the man who has stood at its helm for the past 20 years has done. If Huldai is to blame for the problems, and there are more than a few, then he’s certainly responsible for the achievements as well – and there are many more of these. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Ron Huldai inaugurating in 2011 the renovated Habima Theatre in the centre of Tel Aviv's Culture Square, modelled on New York's Lincoln Center
We have an elected official who has done a great deal of good, who isn’t tainted with corruption, who has stood up courageously against evil – why shouldn’t we vote for him? We’ve got an honest and talented man in a leadership post – how many others are there, if any – so should we really swap him for someone else? Trade in what we know for what we don’t know? Why? Only because of the man’s age and seniority? If only Israel had a prime minister in power for 20 years with a balance sheet showing half the number of achievements as Huldai. The first 20 years with Huldai have been good. Why not another 20 or at least another five? We have someone we can trust.
A combat pilot and not exactly a left-winger, a former homophobe and a man of conceit, Huldai has made Tel Aviv beautiful. Even Israel’s greatest critics are subdued by one night spent in the city. For us it’s a shelter, headed by a person who has done more than any other executive in the country for asylum seekers and refugees. He’s also the person who pledged last week to compensate any cultural establishments hurt as a result of Miri Regev’s loyalty law. Do you know of any other such mayor? Should we not vote for him? Should we not find solace in someone in the face of all the evil?
Should we not reelect the person who turned the boulevards from dusty old paths into lovely and bustling parks? Someone who made the coastline into one of the loveliest promenades on the planet; who developed Park Hayarkon, established by his excellent predecessors Yehoshua Rabinovitz and Shlomo Lahat, transforming it into a crowded version of Central Park?; who paved bicycle paths, turned Habima Square into a lovely park, renovated the old train station and the Kirya and even did away with the cursed Dizengoff Square; someone whose term has been marked by a city that’s buzzing, brimming with people day and night, a city that never stops.
True that all this good corrupts Israel: Thanks to the good life Huldai has brought about in Tel Aviv, Israel has shut its heart tighter against what is happening in the hinterland. But Huldai can’t be blamed for that. He’s only to blame for the fact that at the deadly intersection near my home, whose entrance is more dangerous than the entrance to Tahrir Square, there is still no traffic circle or traffic light despite all my pleas. I won’t forgive Huldai for that but I’ll remember all the rest.
That’s why I will be voting enthusiastically for him in the hope that he gets another five years to be mayor of this bubble, thanks to which more than a few Israelis have not yet gone totally mad.
*Hulda: name of the kibbutz where Ron Huldai was born in 1944, from parents from Łódź in Poland, who took the name of the kibbutz
**Atarim Square, Kikar Atarim, located between Ben-Gurion Boulevard and the beach, is one of Tel Aviv's architectural horrors, surmounted by twelve huge concrete umbrellas/mushrooms. eaten away by sea salt and threatening to collapse. Last year, the mayor announced their destruction and the renovation of the square, which is in progress, to make it a post-modern Marina (estimated cost of the operation: 1 billion shekels, €240 million, $273 million). During the first Gulf War, when Tel Aviv was bombed, Shlomo Lahat, the then mayor, expressed the wish that a rocket would strike the square, which gives an idea of what this square represents for the people of Tel Aviv....