Mayor Abutbul's mouthpiece, Chodosh, seems to share my conventional wisdom. The previous two weeks' editions have been chock-full of accounts of the inhumane, anti-charedi sedition of the 6 year-old courtesans daring to learn Torah within shouting distance of the newspaper's would-be readership. This week's edition, however, ominously started with this:
As ChadashAsur has previously observed, the Haredi dissociation from modern Hebrew, while hesitantly speaking it all the time (except for some Yiddish diehards), leads to some pretty pathetic grammar. In this case, only a really desperate situation could lead Chodosh to splash an Arabic word across the cover (BTW - aleyhom is Arabic for עליהם, used to rally attacking infantry, and has entered colloquial Hebrew meaning something like "dog pile" or "lynch"). For those of you who actually read the kvetchy housekeeping columns in the English portion of Chodosh, you might remember one Imma complaining that her kids are using Hebrew slang, and that she "draws the line at Arabic". Well, no longer.
The article takes umbrage at Abutbul's treatment at a meeting of the Knesset Immigration Absorption Committee that met in his office this week. Apparently the guests weren't too happy that BS only builds for people who will obey divine orders to vote for Abutbul, and told him so. But politicians have pretty thick skin, especially in this part of the Middle East, and I can't imagine that a few insults bother Abutbul much. (Oh, and no mention at all in the English section, but that's already flogging a dead horse.)
ChadashAsur then combed through the fifty-nine pages of the Hebrew section looking for news of that major civil disturbance taking place down the block - the one that daily draws up to 25 policemen in riot gear, Border Police jeeps blocking intersections, projectiles flung at young children cowering on their way home from school, and press coverage around the country. Not to mention requiring Abutbul to send a squirmingly-written letter to his philanthropic friends sort of promising to take care of the problem (great signature!). But to no avail - I couldn't find even a veiled mention of that blight on our pious landscape named the Orot Girls School.
ChadashAsur went to bed Thursday night wondering what was going on beneath the surface, why Chodosh newspaper was trying so badly to turn Abutbul into the victim. This kind of defensive tactic usually means that the subject is diverting attention from something worse. But what? Not Orot School, not packing the place with constituents - he's certainly not ashamed of any of that.
I needn't have waited long.
Bright and early Friday morning, Haaretz provided us with this interesting example of investigative journalism (so far in Hebrew only):
The article traces the evolution of a grandiose project in old Bet Shemesh - demolishing a few blocks of decrepit Stalinist-era apartment buildings ("שיכונים") in favor of modern buildings. In return for their acquiescence, the existing tenants are given a share of the apartments in the new project. The problems start when many tenants aren't keen on the idea of moving out for a couple years without any certainty that the project will be completed. The developer then has his hands full trying to convince the holdouts to sign the paperwork.
Haaretz tells of a young entrepreneurial developer running around and getting signatures from the residents of these squalid hovels, and coming up short over half of the required signatures. So he goes to one Michael Chazan, a.k.a the "Teeth Puller", an overachieving product of Bet Shemesh's pedagogical system with five convictions for battery, extortion, etc. - and currently behind bars. As a member of Israeli's leading underworld group (led by Amir Mulner), Michael was recently indicted in this summer's biggest celebrity expose - Yemenite singer Margalit Tzanani enlisting Michael's services to persuade a business associate to pay up, and on the side throwing Kochav Nolad (the Israeli "American Idol") and signing up talent with his own agency.
But hey, why doesn't Michael Hazan's agency consider signing our mayor on to a prime-time slot - his acting abilities are aptly demonstrated in this excerpt below, at least when he is banishing some undesirables from his neighborhood. What a shame that he had to take his less favored career option and enter municipal politics. (HT: RafiG)
Back to our story. Harmless young entrepreneur partners with the Teeth Puller with the apparent objective of persuading the holdout tenants to sign whatever papers shoved at them. Abutbul and his city council convene in May 2011 to approve the huge deal, and even try to obtain preferential financial terms from the national government. Didn't hurt that our dental surgeon was a childhood friend of Meir Balaish, Mr Abutbul's unlikely coalition partner. Then, in August, just when Abutbol is turning his attention to the overriding problem of the sock-less 6 year-olds of Orot, the Margalit Tzanani story breaks and Michael Hazan is arrested. The real estate project stops in its tracks. Abutbul sudden orders Orot closed, then hesitantly opens it, and then .... flies off to Budapest, Hungary for a week to meet with Palestinians under the tutelage of the extreme left-wing Geneva Proposal while keeping a low profile.
Of course, the extent of the municipality's knowledge of the mafia's involvement in the project remains to be seen, and according to the Haaretz timeline, Hazan officially joined after the official approval for the project. ChadashAsur, far from being a conspiracy theorist, is patiently waiting to see how this plays out. Was Orot a diversion for the underworld deal? Is this week's kvetch a diversion for Orot? We'll see. But the question begs - if Abutbul is used to the likes of the Amir Mulner gang, he can't possibly be afraid of the skinny little sikrikim. One phone call and they'll all be swimming with the fishes.