Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem in 2010 at Chatham House
|Mayor of Jerusalem|
|Preceded by||Uri Lupolianski|
19 October 1959
|Alma mater||Hebrew University of Jerusalem|
Nir Barkat (Hebrew: ניר ברקת; born 19 October 1959) is an Israeli businessman and politician, serving as mayor of Jerusalem since 2008. His tenure is known internationally for his role in trying to promote tourism and encourage major social projects as well as his high-profile conflicts with the ultra-Orthodox sector. Barkat is also known internationally for a February 2015 incident in which he coincidentally happened upon a Palestinian man attacking an Orthodox Jew and successfully managed to overpower the assailant, allowing the victim to be taken to safety.
Nir Barkat was born in 1959 and raised in Jerusalem. His father, Zalman, was a professor of physics at the Hebrew University. He served in the Paratroopers Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces for six years (1977–1983), as well as reserve duty, and reached the rank of Major.
Barkat and his wife Beverly have three daughters. The family lives in the primarily secular Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit HaKerem.
Nir Barkat was named the 43rd most influential Jewish person in 2013.
Barkat started his career in the hi-tech industry by founding a software company called BRM in 1988, which specialized in antivirus software. Later the company became an incubator venture firm that invested in several companies such as Check Point and Backweb. He later helped found the social investment company IVN.
Barkat entered politics in January 2003 when he founded the party Yerushalayim Tatzli'ah ("Jerusalem Will Succeed") and ran in the Jerusalem mayoral race, gaining 43% of the vote losing to Uri Lupoliansky by double-digits. He became head of the opposition on the city council, until the 2008 election.
In 2007, Barkat took part in the Israeli version of Dragons' Den, the venture-capitalist television program, which consists of entrepreneurs pitching their ideas in order to secure investment from business experts.
Barkat ran again and won the election for mayor of Jerusalem on 11 November 2008 gaining 52% of the votes, defeating his main rival Meir Porush, who won 43% of the votes. Barkat is described as a secular politician, contrasting with both Lupoliansky and Porush, who are described as Haredi. His Palestinian counterpart in a titular role for East Jerusalem as opposed to West Jerusalem is Zaki al-Ghul.
Barkat has come under fire from women's rights activists. Women on the Jerusalem City Council have protested illegally gender-segregated buses and illegal modesty signs, which Barkat refuses to address. The Jerusalem city councilwoman, Rachel Azaria who brought the case of gender segregated buses in Jerusalem to the court's attention was fired by secular Mayor Nir Barkat.  Laura Wharton, a member of Jerusalem City Council, complained to the city and Barkat about the illegal modesty signs: “I didn’t get a serious answer. I was brushed off.” Community activists Nili Weinfeld and Karnina Keinan have also appealed to Barkat, demanding that he order removal of the signs from the municipality's streets.  Barkat has also criticized the effort by Women of the Wall to exercise their right to pray in their fashion at the Kotel.
The Guardian has stated that Barkat's socio-economic leadership has been "generally seen as a success". As stated before, his tenure focused on trying to promote high-scale tourism as well as encourage major social projects. However, Jerusalem's politics in the new millennium have remained as fractious and divided as ever, with fissures existing between ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups versus other Jewish groups and the Palestinians.
Barkat ran in the 2013 Jerusalem mayoral elections. He was endorsed by the Labor Party, and also by a range of prominent Likud activists. In addition, he had the tacit support of Meretz, which withdrew its candidate, Pepe Alalu, in order not to steal votes away from Barkat. Preliminary results showed Barkat re-elected with 52% of the vote. Barkat's 2013 victory came despite the fact that his opposition had backing from the powerful political figures Avigdor Lieberman and Aryeh Deri. Barkat endorsed Benjamin Netanyhau for PM in the 2013 and 2015 Knesset elections.
In February 2015, Barkat garnered widespread attention when he intervened after seeing a Palestinian man trying to stab a Jewish victim. Barkat succeeded in subduing the attacker, with the Mayoral security detail coming in immediately afterward and the victim receiving first aid. The Tzahal square incident promoted responses from figures such as former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, who stated that Barkat had "courageously" acted, as well as commentators on Facebook that shared tongue-in-cheek images depicting Barkat as Batman, Neo, and other film characters.
- Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat wins second term after tough election race
- Jerusalem Post
- "Secularist 'wins Jerusalem vote'". BBC News. 2008-11-11.
- Klein, Menachem (2001). Jerusalem: The Contested City. London: C. Hurst & Co. p. 197. ISBN 1-85065-575-8.
- Gender segregation on rise in Israel Yahoo, 8 Nov 2011
- Jerusalem women launch fight against 'degrading and discriminatory' modesty signs Haaretz, 9 Feb 2015
- Women want Jerusalem modesty signs removed YNET, 9 Feb 2015
- Barkat: Let the Palestinians rename Ramallah as ‘Jerusalem’ The Times of Israel, 7 May 2013
- MNB Runs election
- Elad Benari (October 23, 2013). "Barkat Re-elected in Jerusalem". Israel National News.