Thursday, July 08, 2021

The City of Bet Shemesh Responds

By Akiva Spiegelman, Guest Contributor

Bet Shemesh City Hall (Ynet)
A few days ago, I expressed my view about the controversy in the city of Bet Shemesh. It was based on the description of events in  a number of articles I read – which all said pretty much the same thing. The controversy surrounded the firing of some of  Mayor Aliza Bloch’s coalition members which - among others - consisted of Charedim. 

When she took office, she wanted to govern  with as broad a mandate as possible and offered opposition members seats at the table, promising to consider the things they were asking for. That coalition is now gone. While understanding the cause of that breakup and seeing both sides of the issue, I was nonetheless disappointed that a consensus could not be reached whereby everyone could benefit. The details can be read here

Yesterday, I received an email from Akiva Spiegelman, Deputy to the spokesperson of the Beit Shemesh Municipality. He wanted me to clarify a few thigs which he said were missing from my post. I instead offered him the opportunity to spell it out in detail in  guest post, which I said I would publish. He accepted. 

Late yesterday I received that post. It follows unedited in its entirety. However, in the interests of fairness and balance, I hereby offer the same opportunity and space to the opposition to present their own perspective.* If accepted, I pledge to publish that in its entirety as well. 

Akiva’s words follow: 

For about a year now, Mayor of the Beit Shemesh Municipality Dr. Aliza Bloch has been dealing with opposition within a coalition, making it difficult for the city to promote its day-to-day activities. 

 Here are some numbers: In the school year 5731 (September 2020), 54 new classrooms were inaugurated. In the coming school year - 5742, 70 new classrooms will be inaugurated.  Currently, more than 1,000 classrooms are missing in Beit Shemesh in order to best begin the upcoming school year. Since the beginning of her term, Mayor Bloch has brought about 500 permits for the construction of new classrooms with a budget of about 400 million NIS 400. 

The Ministry of Education refused to provide funds in order to facilitate this shortage and therefore it was decided to act by applying an irregular budget. This type of budget can only be approved by the city councilmembers. For the sake of order and out of a perception of a right to education for every child, the Mayor asked all those in need of buildings to send a list of students by name and ID number, thus removing political considerations. 

This is not how a number of council members saw it even though the distribution was agreed upon by party leaders prior to bringing the matter to a vote, and therefore voted against the approval of the irregular budget, a move that will make it very difficult to properly open the coming school year.  The Mayor's perception is that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed, while instilling values ​​of education for responsibility, and this process begins with affirming an educational framework for everyone regardless of their personal background. 

 A reality in which the deputy Mayors and council members harm thousands of the city's students and deprive them of classrooms, both in the older part of the city, at Rama D and in Neve Shamir, is irresponsible. Following an entire year in which she fought a non-cooperative coalition, the Mayor executed a decision aimed at making order. The mayor continues to believe in the idea of ​​a broad coalition (until this point all city council members were part of her coalition) but together with responsible partners. 

In light of this, in a letter canceling the delegation of powers sent to a number of council members (9 to be exact), she explicitly stated that the action would take effect after 48 hours in anticipation of the situation being understood by those who acted against the municipality's goals. The recipients of the instruction on the abolition of their powers have not yet vacated their offices nor have they returned their mandates even though the time span had come to an end. 

The mayor continues to see the path of partnership and the common good as her worldview in running the city. Her door remains open  for positive dialog and she is attentive to those seeking to take part in the process of promoting the city for the benefit of the residents of Beit Shemesh. 

Best regards, 

Akiva Spiegelman 

Deputy to the spokesperson of the Beit Shemesh Municipality

*If anyone reading this knows any members of the opposition, please pass this offer on to them. Although this is a widely read blog, I'm not sure if any of them are among my readers. Thank you.