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Ron Huldai

(1944 - )

Ron Huldai (Hebrew: רוֹן חוּלְדָּאִי‎; was born on August 26, 1944, and raised in Kibbutz Huldai in Hulda (his surname is taken from the name of the kibbutz), one of three brothers born to Polish immigrant parents who moved to Palestine from Łódź. His father Ozer was among the founders of the kibbutz and the principal of its school, while his mother Hanka was a teacher and headed the organization of plays and performances at the kibbutz.

Huldai studied at Tel Aviv University, Auburn University at Montgomery, the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He joined the Israeli Air Force in 1963 and served as a combat pilot for 26 years. During the Six-Day War, he participated in Operation Focus, and he shot down three enemy aircraft and participated in numerous missions. He subsequently participated in the War of Attrition and Yom Kippur War. Huldai held several key senior command positions, including as the commander of Nevatim Airbase, Hatzerim Airbase, the Air Force Pilots Training School, and coordinator of the government authorities and supervisor of civilian construction projects for the IAF. He left the IAF in 1989 with the rank of Brigadier General.

Following his retirement from active duty in 1989, he entered the private sector. After spending two years selling air conditioners in Nigeria, he returned to Israel and managed the closure of a construction plant in Ramla. He then became headmaster of the prestigious Herzliya Hebrew High School for six years until 1998. During his tenure he transformed a much-deteriorated high school into a pedagogical showcase of educational and organizational excellence.

A member of the Labor Party, Huldai was first elected mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa in 1998 and was re-elected to five-year terms in 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. According to the municipality website, “Mayor Huldai's most important goal has been to maintain Tel Aviv-Yafo as a bastion of the cherished values of tolerance, acceptance, diversity and democracy.” In addition, “under his leadership, Tel Aviv-Yafo has become known as ‘the Startup City of the Startup Nation.’ The city boasts more technological startups per capita than any other city in the world – 1,700 at any given moment.”

As mayor of the secular city, Huldai frequently faced challenges from Orthodox Jews to restrict activities in the city on Shabbat. In 2019, he launched a free public bus service to get around the prohibition on charging for public transportation on Shabbat.

In response to an influx of African asylum seekers, Huldai created Mesila, a city agency to provide them social services and education.

In December 2020, Huldai announced he was forming a new political party – Hayisralim (“The Israelis”) – to run in the March 2021 election.

Raoul Wootliff noted, “He grew up in the Labor party, and to many on the left represents the last vestige of the old Labor guard who can still muster election wins — even if only in the secular left-wing bastion of Tel Aviv.”

Huldai is married to Yael, and they have three children and nine grandchildren.

Sources: Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality;
“Ron Huldai,” Wikipedia;
Raoul Wootliff, “Tel Aviv mayor to form new left-wing party to run in March elections,” Times of Israel, (December 28, 2020);
Jonathan Lis, “Tel Aviv Mayor Announces New Party Running in Upcoming Israeli Election,” Haaretz, (December 30, 2020).

Photo: Sivan Shachor, Wikimedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.