Ilan Shohat -The Mayor
In the two short years since he was elected, Ilan Shohat has already added some remarkable achievements to his name. He has managed, with the help of his American born wife, Sivan, to raise over $3 million from American sponsors for the benefit of Safed. He's been able to bring Israel's incipient fifth Medical School to Safed, and he began his campaign to get Safed internationally recognized as the World Capital of Spirituality and Jewish Culture. His vision is to complete the circle by reconnecting the holy city of Safed to its glorious 16th century spiritual kabbalist past and bring that leading status forward to the 21st Century. He hopes that he can restore Safed's position, to what he believes it was then - a leading scientific educational hub for the whole Galilee region and beyond.
A local boy made good, Ilan Shohat is at 35 young to be mayor of the city but, he comes with a lot of experience - five years sitting on the local city council, head of the opposition, a MA in Political Science -specialization -Local Government (Haifa University) and a BA in Educational Management Systems. He has also worked on both sides of the employment fence, as Head of the Association of Factory Managers/Owners in the North and as Head of the Unemployment Office in the Lower Galilee. Charming, personable and good-looking, the mayor's English is also, unlike many Israeli politicians, fairly fluent -all necessary requirements in this image driven media savvy age.
Practical projects include upgrading the overall infrastructure of the city like the Yigal Allon Theater, which he sees as a base for a city orchestra. For the young he aims to increase science education at the high school level and increase new building allocation for the college - including the creation of dormitories, youth centers and children's parks throughout the city, as well as the opening of a new swimming pool. For tourists he wants to open a spectacular visitors center and encourage visitors to stay overnight by increasing the number of available hotel rooms.
Apart from bringing the Medical School to the city, which currently takes up about 65% of his time, the mayor desires to bring hope to the people of Safed. If the Medical School also becomes the springboard for the new regional University planned for the Galilee, it will increase educational opportunities for the young people of the city. The Medical School alone will upgrade the level of care in Ziv hospital, bringing with it new jobs, housing, and better recreational facilities. He expects that if proposals to extend the rail line from the coast through Karmiel to Rosh Pina up to Kiryat Shmonei are carried out in the next ten years, this will also expand the overall work opportunities for residents in the area.
Ilan Shohat is obviously very passionate about his home town and believes that it needs to be a 'world brand' to attract an extensive number of international tourists to Safed. He also wants encourage a wide range of people to come make the city their home and who will respect its unique character. As part of that effort, he tries to ensure that all visitors, secular or religious, and new temporary and permanent residents alike, appreciate the city's reputation as a very special city in Israel, where everyone gets along and respects each other.
As someone who could easily earn more money elsewhere, Shohat is not Mayor of the city for the salary. He says if he could choose to be mayor of any city in Israel, he would still choose Safed because he just loves the city.