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Oct 24, 2013

Will Bet Shemesh be split into two cities?

In the wake of the elections, an old initiative is being revived. The issue of splitting Bet Shemesh into two cities is back on the table. Somebody proposed it to Minister of Interior Gideon Saar, after an election season filled with hate-messages and violence, and results that do not sit well with some (with some claims of corruption as well), and instead of rejecting it out of hand, Saar said he is going to look into it in the coming days.

This initiative, to split Bet Shemesh into two cities, has been raised a few times in the past, and it has been rejected each time. Doing it now is an extreme long-shot attempt and very unlikely to pass. The only reason it might is if the local Likud gets behind it (Shalom Edri has a lot of connections at the national level, and is considered to be very powerful), which is possible, and it is rumored the Gideon Saar really does not like Moshe Abutbol - even from the days he served as Minister of Education. Despite that I still don't expect it to happen.

Why would it happen? Why support it?

Some will say for financial reasons. Old Bet Shemesh people don't want to "support" the services of haredim of RBS who pay less arnona (some dont pay at all, many pay with large discounts, etc).
Another reason, probably the main one, is the huge cultural divide exposed during the election season - the people of old Bet Shemesh have their set of priorities, and the people of new Bet Shemesh have their set of priorities and there is little overlap, with not enough money to support both.
Another reason is to separate between two sectors or cultures that clearly have hostility for each other and don't really want to live together.

Why won't it happen? Why reject it?

Splitting municipalities is a very expensive venture. It requires duplication of services. Creating a new City Hall with everything it entails in the ways of jobs and equipment, etc.
Another reason is where would the split be made. Personally, if it were to happen, I would suggest either "Moniot Sharret" or Kikar Resido to be potentially considered the natural line of division.  This is a technical problem that can be worked out, but many people on each side would be upset saying they prefer to be on the other side.
Another reason is that many people are of the opinion that we should learn to live together peacefully. It might be a Utopian dream, but it is a serious debate whether each sector should live in its own self-imposed "ghetto" or to have communities mix. The more common belief today, I think, is that mixing is better, making the separation idea less realistic.

Geula Even, who happens to be the wife of Minister of Interior Gideon Saar, interviewed Moshe Abutbol on her Channel 1 television show "HaMussaf" (from the 16 minute mark) yesterday about the violence of the election season and his ability to rule over a city so divided.
Geula Even also asked about the issue of dividing the city, which Abutbol himself is against and considers unrealistic.

As well, the issue was discussed on the Channel 10 news (video below).

One real dilemma that would arise, if Gideon Saar woke up tomorrow morning and said "We are splitting Bet Shemesh":
Which city would Moshe Abutbol be mayor of?
The new city would not want him as mayor. With an extreme majority of ashkenazi haredim, they would no longer have a need for Moshe Abutbol. Currently he is needed in order to capture segments of Old Bet Shemesh. That would no longer be necessary, and they would show him the door.
The old city would not want him as mayor, considering the overall rejection of him in the current election, along with the hateful messages his campaign team put out that affect so many people from old Bet Shemesh, he would be chased out of town from there as well.

Even if Saar made the decision that ti is necessary to split Bet Shemesh, the initiative would be delayed by challenges in the courts, petitions, working out the technical details.. It won't happen, in my opinion, but if even if it is passed, it is a long time away from happening.

Bet Shemesh will most likely remain divided culturally, but I don't think it is going to be divided physically.

While elections in many places cause people to sya things they don't mean, in the heat of the moment, many times people say "if he wins I will move to..".. We had it when George Bush ran for a second term, people threatened to move to Canada. When Obama ran, and then when he ran again, also people said they would leave the USA. I can't say that nobody moved due to election results, but there was definitely no mass movement of people leaving the USA.

Some people said during our recent elections, that if Abutbol would win they would leave. Some haredim also said that if the secular guy would win they would no longer be able to live here.

In an irony of ironies, the first person to announce he is leaving Bet Shemesh as a result of AButbol's victory is not a Dati Leumi or secular person. It is someone haredi.

Shmuel Pappenheim announce×’ yesterday that he is leaving Bet Shemesh because of Abutbol's win. Pappenheim also said that he is disappointed with the haredi community for selecting tribalism over professionalism. Granted, Pappenheim is not your average Haredi fellow, but still I find it ironic that the first person to announce publicly that he is leaving due to Abutbol is a haredi rather than  a secular.

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  1. Picture of the sun on the town's logo? Not very chareidi!

  2. Not so surprising if you consider that the moderate Haredim benefit the most from a mixed municipality-an automatic check on extremist tendencies from outside the community, along with a more solvent municipality.

  3. We all know that the Haredim, Datti and Secular are largely not living in separate areas but Actually on the same streets and within in the same Buildings. In fact the Tov party that did Not want Abutbol is centered in an area surrounded by Haredim !!. SO what we MUST do is find someway of reconciling are differences by putting together representatives from all segments of the populations and have them work it out, or it will lead to all out Anarchy. Most of the people from all the diff segments are good caring citizens. We need a uniform decision of how do with the issues ! We NEED a Real “Peace Plan”.

  4. Next comes giving northern Jerusalem to Charedim and eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
    Be careful what you wish for.

    You lost an election?
    No problem! Lets split the city!

  5. Snag: The city was named for Shemesh, the Canaanite sun god.

  6. Culturally its probably a good idea as there is little chance of reconciliation or a "peace plan" after these elections. Some things simply cannot be taken back. But there are technical problems. E.g., who would get control of the industrial areas. There is a lot of money at stake from these deals and its unclear if either Beit Shemesh could survive without this income.

  7. Exactly what would change even if the city were split? Are they going to erect border fences to prevent citizens from the opposing city to enter? Otherwise what use is splitting?

    Please explain.

  8. what would be expected to change, which is why some are promoting it:
    old bet shemesh people would pay their taxes to old bet shemesh municipality, which would then provide services to old bet shemesh residents.
    new bet shemesh people would pay their taxes to new bet shemesh municipality, which would then provide services to new bet shemesh residents.
    neither one would think the others are living off their backs.
    old bet shemesh people who are promoting this think that there will no longer be problems with the haredim. we arent supporting them, they dont live with us and make demands on our lives of how to dress and close roads on shabbos.
    people of new bet shemesh promoting the idea think that there will no longer be problems with the secular always getting upset at their lifestyles and at everything they do. if they want mehadrin buses or tzniyus signs, it will no longer cause fights.

    basically nothing will change except in peoples minds.

  9. Seems to me that most of the initiative for this idea is coming from the national government. They probably figure that dividing the city will help them avoid having to deal with issues such as (i) better police work against the zealots - in all-haredi areas, I think the police tend to let the "modesty squads" and other manifistations of kanaut operate unhindered, on the theory of "why should we get involved in internal haredi fighting", but they have trouble getting away with that poor excuse when other communities get involved; (ii) endless lawsuits over land allocation, school budgets, elections (like this one); (iii) enforcement of laws against discrimination against women, particularly on the buses. Dividing the city probably wouldn't solve any of these problems, and is a bad idea for lots of other reasons. Just an attempt on the national government's part to avoid its obligations, and I think a large measure of wishful thinking on the part of the local residents that are supporting this, in my opinion.


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