• The Mayor of Jerusalem opened the exhibition ‘Destination Jerusalem’ by attaching a mezuzah at the entrance of the exhibition. On the left, HE Modi Ephraim, Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands. | Photo: Jacco Klamer

Interview Moshe Lion: “Every Day is a Reason to be Grateful”

Sara van Oordt - 18 August 2022

On 1 June, Moshe Lion, the Mayor of Jerusalem, visited the Netherlands for 24 hours. He opened the exhibition ‘Destination Jerusalem’ at Christians for Israel’s headquarters in Nijkerk and made a tour of the beautiful fishing village of Urk, where he met hundreds of friends from Israel. In between activities, he made time for an exclusive interview.

This morning you opened the exhibition ‘Destination: Jerusalem’ at our headquarters in Nijkerk. Can you tell us what you enjoyed most about it?

“It was a wonderful experience to be able to see and open the Jerusalem exhibition. I thought it looked like the original; it reminded me of my city, Jerusalem. You have done a tremendous job in building this exhibition. There is no doubt that I recommend everyone to go and see this exhibition.”

What do you consider the most beautiful place in Jerusalem?

“The Mahane Yehuda market. That’s really the heart of the city, almost 24 hours a day. I also really like Mishkenot Sha’ananim and the Western Wall.”

What is it like to be Mayor of the most controversial city in the world?

“That is a big and important question. It is a big responsibility. In Jerusalem, Jews, Muslims and Christians live together. Ultimately, we want to live together. As Mayor, I am responsible for ensuring that every resident of the city feels at home in our city and understands that we as a municipality are there for them.”

Do you think all residents experience it this way, or is there still work to be done?

“I admit that not everyone feels the way I would like them to feel. But we are improving the situation in the city. I feel responsible for all residents. We are building a lot of new classrooms: in the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods but also in the eastern part of the city. Unfortunately, there is a big gap between the east and the west of Jerusalem when it comes to education levels. Four years ago, we started to improve this.”

Do you believe education is the key to improving the situation?

“Education is one of the important keys to closing the gap. We have made a start. It is a long process, but we are up to the challenge.”

You are religious. Both Jews and Christians pray for the coming of Messiah. Suppose He comes tomorrow. Have you prepared your speech already?

“I am not sure if He will come tomorrow, but you have to pray for it. I think that when He comes, it will be a big miracle. We will welcome Him whenever He comes.”

As a religious Jew, does it have a special meaning for you that you are the Mayor of Jerusalem and not of, say, Tel Aviv?

Moshe Lion laughs: “Yes, it is part of my job that I get to welcome Messiah!”

The Mayor’s advisor, Eliran Baruch, joins the conversation: “In the Jewish prayer book, the Siddur, it says that we must build Jerusalem, and this is what we are doing”. Shai Doron, director of the Jerusalem Foundation, jokingly adds: “The Mayor of Tel Aviv can lie on the beach every day. He does not have to prepare for the coming of Messiah.”

Mayor Moshe Lion in Jerusalem. | Photo: Flash90

When you retire, how would you like people to remember Moshe Lion, the Mayor of Jerusalem?

“That I built up Jerusalem. That I was able to forge links between the different population groups of Jerusalem. Because we all have to live together in this city.”

As Mayor of Jerusalem, what was your most difficult moment, and what was your most joyful moment?

Moshe Lion pauses to think. “If I say that there are no difficult moments, it is not true. Every day is difficult in my position as Mayor. Because you never know what is going to happen and what problems will come your way. I would say the most difficult moment for me was the disaster in Meron (where 45 people died on 30 April last year). Twenty families from Jerusalem had lost their lives. That was incredibly sad. And if you ask me about my highlight: every day is a highlight. My ultimate dream was to be the Mayor of Jerusalem. So every day is a reason to be grateful.”

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