He took great pains to defy the observant public and force through a public bus transit line to operate on Shabbos – but when it comes to respecting Arab and Muslim tradition, Teveria Mayor Ron Kobi was a great deal more respectful, or perhaps intimidated. After a meeting with representatives of the Israeli Arab community Sunday, Kobi announced that he was backing away from declarations last week that he would open a museum in the abandoned Al-Bahry Mosque on the Teveria boardwalk.
Arab groups had threatened a mass protest over what they said was “desecration” of the building, and promised to hold a non-stop prayer session – daring Kobi to act against them. After the meeting Sunday, Kobi said that there would be no museum, but that prayers would not take place there.
“We have feelings of brotherhood between us,” Kobi said of the Arab community. “The city has two mosques and we are conducting discussions with the Muslim community in order to determine ways to refurbish them. These are two important monuments in the city, but they will not be used for prayer. We will refurbish them. It’s not yet clear what will be in them. These are important buildings for Teveria.”
On Shabbos, by contrast, Kobi defiantly inaugurate the first of what he said would be numerous bus lines operating on Shabbos. The bus, which covers several of the city’s internal neighborhoods and its beach strip, is free to ride. Kobi said that the objective was to bring more tourists to the city – and that he recommended that other mayors follow his lead. “We are not doing this to fight with the chareidim, but to turn Teveria into the place we want it to be.”
With that, he added, he was definitely interested in fighting Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas. Other mayors have told him that they admire him for operating the bus line, but that they themselves were “afraid of Deri. They don’t advance their plans because they are cowards. This is a capitulation of municipal leadership to Aryeh Deri. Who is Deri anyway? He needs to go home – his time is over,” Kobi said.