The UTJ faction in the Ashdod City Council has announced that
it will not join the municipal coalition. Their decision was
reached due to rulings the municipality has issued which hurt
most of the city's residents, the majority of whom are loyal
to Jewish tradition. Chief among the offensive decrees is the
demand of the city's mayor, Tzvi Zilker, that the UTJ
representatives sign a coalition agreement expressing their
consent to open stores on Shabbos, as well as not to close
stores which sell pork.
UTJ representatives Rabbi Osher Levi and Rabbi Ephraim Weber
made their views known when the mayor publicly turned to them
at last week's press conference. At the conference, the mayor
called upon the UTJ representatives to join the coalition.
Responding, the representatives enumerated their reasons for
not joining the coalition.
They declared: "Until now, the mayor has disregarded the
representatives of UTJ, despite the pledge he made prior to
the elections to include UTJ in the coalition and to
safeguard the interests of the religious residents of the
city. The public is shocked by the mayor's debasing behavior
toward the members of the UTJ faction, with whom he did not
consent to deliberate prior to the presentation of the
budget, although they had supported him in the elections.
"UTJ's representatives, who were not present when the budget
was being formulated, have now been asked to sign the
coalition agreements and to consent to the opening of stores
in the industrial region on Shabbos, and to not closing the
city's pork stores," they continued. They also noted that at
the press conference, Zilker announced that he was planning
to hold many more cultural activities on Shabbos.
Regarding the budget, UTJ's representatives say that this is
the first year that the budget for synagogues and religious
structures has been cut, while the budget for the development
of educational and religious institutions has been totally
eliminated. In addition, no ongoing budget for religious
institutions has been approved, and the budget of the
Chareidi Education Department has been canceled.
At the end of their announcement, which was endorsed by the
Association of Directors of Torah Institutions in Ashdod,
UTJ's representatives said: "We hereby declare that it is
inconceivable for us to join the coalition under such
intolerable conditions. We will fight tooth and nail until
these difficult decrees, which hurt most of the residents of
the city who are loyal to the tradition of Israel, are